I am a giver. I give without ever expecting anything in return and it’s slowly sucking the life right out of me. I have a tendency to totally disengage emotionally when dealing with a stressful situation or experience because my focus is on doing, not feeling. I don’t usually consider the way that I feel about something or how it impacts me until the experience is over with and I have had time to reflect on it. It makes me really good at handling stressful situations, but unfortunately it also makes it easy for others to take advantage of me by dumping their workload on me. I get so wrapped up in putting out the fire, that I don’t even really notice there’s a fire until it’s already out. I guess I would liken it to the fight or flight response. I go into autopilot mode and I don’t think too much. I just do. My brain knows what to do without much emotional reaction.
As a result of this ability, I’ve come to know that I can’t quite grasp how physically and emotionally impactful a stressful situation is until I have effectively removed myself from it and can view it from another perspective. Tomorrow starts my fourth week at my new job and now that I’m on the outside of my previous employer looking in, I can see very clearly how much my old job was contributing to my anxiety, my fatigue, and my general dismal mood. I still have close friends there so I can’t say that I’ve totally removed it from my radar but I wake up every morning and go to bed every evening thinking about life, not work and it’s good for my overall well-being.
I know next to nothing and no one at my new job and it’s lonely at times but, in a way, it’s also very comforting. For the first time in a very long time instead of being front and center and holding the weight of the world on my shoulders, I get to step back out of the spotlight and just be a team player. I get to take instruction from my supervisor and team leaders as I navigate unfamiliar waters. I get to make mistakes and learn from them. I get to enjoy the peace and quiet of my own office without the threat of 10 different people constantly running to me and asking me what to do about some particular problem or situation all day long. While I definitely enjoy responsibility, over these past three weeks I’ve realized that taking responsiblity for yourself can easily morph into taking on the responsibility of others if you’re not careful. I have a tendency to pick up the slack whenever and wherever it’s needed and if I don’t learn how to set boundaries and start putting me first, I risk sliding right back into that leadership role I’m trying so desperately to avoid.
As a person with MS, stress affects me differently than it used to. It’s much more impactful and if I don’t keep it under control and to a minimum where I can, I risk a relapse. I also risk more permanent disabilities and challenges. I really want to love my job and be fully committed to it but I also want to love life and avoid more relapses. I’ve got to stay focused on me and what’s important in my life and leave work at work. I like quotes so whenever I’m feeling confused or upset and want some inspiration, I look for quotes about whatever it is that’s got me down. This instance was no exception and I found some quotes that sort of slapped me in the face and said, DO THIS. I’ve shared them below, along with my thoughts on each.
“Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do.” – Irma Kurtz
Set boundaries and stick to them. This is probably the one area of my life that needs the most help. I am a stickler for the rules but for some reason I have an extremely difficult time with setting and maintaining boundaries. I easily change directions and go wherever the task takes me, even if it’s not something I should be taking care of or focusing on. To help maintain my new boundaries I plan to try to learn all aspects of the job but only focus on the tasks assigned to me. As one of two Business Analysts on the team I need to take a more proactive approach to sticking within the scope of my work and my expectations. I am not responsible for the actions or the wellbeing of others on my team. Easier said than done.
“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” – Antonio Bandaras
Yes, I’m quoting Antonio Bandaras. Bear with me.
I have a very active imagination. Always have. It’s fantastic but sometimes it makes it hard for me to stay realistic about something. An idea starts as a small project and once I get started it transforms into something bigger until it’s totally overwhelming. I need to be better about setting realistic goals and benchmarks at the beginning of a project so that I don’t get I overwhelmed or get in too deep.
“I will hear me.” Brene Brown
I am only one person. Most days I wish that I could be 2 or 3 people because I would get more done but the truth is that some days I’m not even one person. Because of the fatigue, some days I’m only a 1/2 of a person. I need to learn to pace myself on those days and not try to do more than I can. I need to learn to listen to my body and be willing to give in to its needs.
It frustrates me to no end when I get started on something only to be exhausted before I even have a chance to make progress. Then I have to interject days of rest into my schedule so that I can make it through the remainder of the week. This makes meeting goals and expectations challenging but not impossible.
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris
This is one of my mantras and it’s a big one. Resting and relaxing is something that I learned not to do at a very young age for a variety of reasons and I still struggle with it today but I need to learn to break that ugly cycle of stress. Life is not all about go, go, go. It’s not about the end result. It’s about the journey and I need to learn to enjoy the journey a little bit more.
One of the most important aspects of my life now is taking time to rest whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It seems counterintuitive since tasks drive my stress but it’s actually beneficial and helps me refocus my efforts where they’re truly needed vs. running around in stress circles, accomplishing nothing. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and under accomplished, that’s when I know it’s time for a break.
“Saying YES to happiness means learning to say NO to things and people that stress you out.” – Thema Davis
Overcoming my need for more might be one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever taken on. I feel like my brain is hard-wired to overload and overachieve but it’s not. It’s a learned behavior. If I learned it, then I can unlearn it. I am more than a passerby observing from afar. I am the boss of me and while I can’t control what life throws my way I can certainly control how I react to it.