In the midst of the festive season it is often easy to get caught up in abundant taskings and volunteer efforts, and while leading experts tell us that giving back to others is a wonderful way to receive back two-fold, it can come at a price of compromise to personal wellness if we are not careful. Why don’t we say no when our plate runneth over? Why do we allow ourselves to exhaustively watch others merrily engage in social activities while we run around planning, serving, cleaning etc. to the point of misery? While we all like to think there is a little super-hero within us, it is important to check in with ourselves every now and then and see how we are doing; to see if perhaps our energy level of a super-hero has gone to super-zero. We need to know ourselves well enough to know when to say “no” so we can fuel our fire steadily. Have you ever asked yourself “Hey, how are you doing?”
How are You Doing?
A student reminded me that one of the key exercises of good military leaders is to check in with soldiers. The simple phase of “how are you doing” is a beacon to stop for pause and gather their thoughts regarding just how they were doing. While we can all appreciate the stress military members endure, in the face of any sort of stress it is beneficial to check ourselves and gauge where our stress meter is at, or where our energy level is at. There are only twenty-four hours in a day and we can’t buy more time; believe me, I have looked on eBay and there is none for sale. So what does it mean when we say yes to abundant tasks? It means that we have made the decision to donate a portion of our time. In many cases our schedules permit and we are happy to engage in the wonderful ritual of doing things for others and helping out. However we are not born with a built-in “yes” meter and at some point, if we do not stop the yes train we find ourselves chasing the last car to Anxiety-ville. That glorious intent and anticipation of the altruistic feedback feeling becomes one of anxiety, time crunched and “oh, what have I done?” and then to boot, we feel guilty about not having that once happy, joyous attitude that true altruistic people always seem to have.
When you Become “Yessed out”
Several Christmases ago I admittedly put myself into the out of control “Yes” train and found myself rather bruised at the end of the line. I volunteered to make Christmas boxes, cookies, artfully design stockings, bake hams, turkeys, yams, dips, cook, decorate, buy toys, wrap toys, deliver toys, bake goods etc. Somewhere at about the two days till Christmas point I found myself stuffing the stupid cookies into the stupid boxes and making the Grinch look like little miss Molly Bight. What had I done? I had lost my holiday cheer and longed for it all just to be over; I was “Yessed out” and exhausted. In the big scheme of things, I had not checked in with myself to see “how was I doing” By yes-ing to everything I had sacrificed my mental and physical well-being to the point of being stressed out. So how might we manage our yes meter?
A few things we can ask ourselves are:
• What is already on our plate?
• What part of my plate can handle a bit more?
• What can I take off my plate to make a little more room?
• What will I say when my plate is full?
While we can do a lot, we can’t always do everything. As with many things in life a balance helps so that we are able to give some, receive some and share some.
About the author: Dr. Lynn Soots has been teaching psychology at the higher education level for over fourteen years. She is proud to integrate Positive Psychology applications in each of her courses to support growth and student goal attainment. She specializes in higher education online course room design, adult learning, and diversity appreciation.