“Hands up if you live a busy life?” I think if I asked this question in any group of audience nowadays, the proportion of people who raise their hands is likely to be close to 100%. It is a fact that most of us live a busy life. We have come a long way from the simpler lifestyle that our grandparents might have lived. Living in a world that is dominated by the power of the internet, qualitative changes have taken place in the way we live. We are expected to be connected with our work 24/7, we are constantly reminded of what others expect of us in the way we look, the way our house looks, the type of parents we are, the level of achievements our kids have, and so on. And while being connected with our family and friends on social media is nice and convenient, we are also inevitably impacted by comparisons with images that others choose to present themselves with.
Therefore we live like we are always running a race. As a result, feelings of stress, exhaustion, and frustration have become a collective experience. The thing is, when we feel these ways without doing something to look after ourselves, we run into bigger problems. Just like a rubber band that is constantly strained, after a prolonged period of time, it loses its elasticity, becomes loose with no strength. Some people chronically run on low fuels, this makes them emotionally unstable, low in mood, high in anxiety; they have reduced tolerance with imperfections, seem grumpy all the time, and are unable to enjoy the precious moments with the people that matter to them. Their constant running on low fuel may look like they are still “functioning”, but in actual fact they are damaging their mental and physical wellbeing, and may even be injuring their important relationships along the way.
Yet a lot of people resist the idea of taking a break, doing less around the house, doing less things with the kids, or taking some time off work. It is common for people to say that they feel “guilty” or “selfish” taking a break. Some fear that by being this way they will become “lazy”, and the thought of “dropping the standard” is terrifying. They may feel that by doing nothing for a little while, they are failing their kids, their family, their work.
In therapy, I often give my clients the example of the inflight emergency instruction when we are taking an airplane. The instruction always says: “when the oxygen masks come down, if you are travelling with kids, you need to put it on yourself first, and then assist your kids.” Putting your mask on first is not being selfish, rather, it’s a very important step of being a good parent. If you are not doing well yourself, you put your kids’ lives in danger. Your kids rely on you to be healthy so that you can do your job as a parent. Being aware of your mental and physical health, and actively doing something to maintain a good level of health, is the best thing that you can do for you and your family. And sometimes, that “doing something”, could be as simple as taking a break, doing less of everything, and cutting yourself some slack. It is an active step towards being productive. It is you being a responsible parent. It reflects that you care about your family. It means that you matter.
Next time you feel life is getting too much, please sit back, put your feet up, take a break.
Jennifer MPsych (Clinical), PGDip ClinPsych, BA(Hons – First Class) is a psychologist who understands that a good therapeutic relationship is the starting point of any meaningful work with her clients. She is genuine and easy to talk to, and is dedicated to creating a safe space for her clients to share their stories.
Jennifer has worked in the fields of health psychology as well as general mental health in adults and children. These experiences have equipped her with skills in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of mental health presentations. In addition, she has developed expertise in the management of tinnitus and hypersensitivity of hearing. Recognising that everyone is unique and different, she sees the importance of establishing a collaborative therapeutic relationship, and is committed to tailoring evidence-based interventions to her clients with different situations and backgrounds to effectively promote their mental wellbeing.
Through her years of clinical work, Jennifer has pursued her interest in working with adults experiencing a range of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, social adjustment issues, stress management, and cross-cultural issues. She is passionate about therapy, and is always committed to further increasing her professional knowledge to ensure she can provide the best possible care for her clients.