“It’s like, ‘wait a minute, I do have a lot going on. It makes sense that I’m tired and there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not somehow defective because I can’t “do it all” because the reality is, it’s a lot.’ First, appreciate the struggle and how hard it is. If you start from that position, then it’s okay to say no,” said Dr. Caroline Danda, Clinical Psychologist, Author and Entrepreneur.
Before you started a family, did you have an ambitious dream about your lifestyle post-kids? If so, how much does that vision, drive how you view yourself now? Many of us try to hold on to those ideals. But as the schedule implodes, we have to reassess and shed commitments. Often, that includes things we really want to do.
Although boundary setting is part of the answer to overdo and never-done. It doesn’t always feel good. And you may wonder, who am I if I’m not doing these things I value? Even if you’re comfortable disappointing others, it’s soul crushing to disappoint ourselves. So, how can you streamline differently? And manage the emotional side of un-committing.
The Illusion of “All”
“It is impossible to do it all well, let’s just put that on the board,” Caroline explained. “We get messages as parents and caregivers that we are supposed to ‘do it all’ but that’s not reality. Those are the pictures we see. Just as much as our kids see pictures that are illusions of happiness and how people have it all together.”
She added, “So, we must give ourselves permission to not be on top of our game all the time. And sometimes, we have to make hard choices, and decide where we can put our energy. Because we only have so much energy and you can’t just do so many life hacks, to get more. There is a finite amount.”
Adds Pressure When we Struggle
Caroline’s clinical practice, book and expertise is focused on treating kids and adolescents. However, she explains that working with kids means working with adults too. She said, “The kids are struggling but the reality is, the parents are too. Parents are really struggling to figure out what to do with our kids and that affects everybody. When the parents and caregivers are struggling and trying to figure out everything, that affects the whole family dynamic. And the community.” No, you’re not imagining the pressure.
So, Assess Your Season
And of course, the pandemic keeps things interesting. Most of us are doing more work, with less resources while facing new constraints. So, it’s important to rebalance the demands on your time because it’s unlikely to correct itself.
Caroline said, “We have different seasons. And there are things that work for some seasons, that don’t work for others.” Amen. She explained that whether it’s our kids, parents or careers, the priorities will continue to shift. “I’ve had to pull back from some of the things I love to be involved with, in my kids’ lives.” How do you choose?
And Decide What’s Important
Caroline explained, “And I love to volunteer but I had to pull back. So, you do have to pause to reevaluate.” What’s critical for you right now? She suggests grouping your to-dos into categories. “What are your requirements? And which ones are ‘red’ because they’re absolutely necessary and can’t be let go. Or ‘yellow’ where it would be nice to still do these things. And for those that are ‘green’ where it would be icing on the cake if you could do them. But it’s not necessary.”
Not Everything Will Fit
Communities run on our goodwill and generosity. But over extending yourself, is like adding the piece that topples the Jenga. Caroline realized she had to start saying no when she forgot about a volunteer assignment. “I literally forgot to bring lunch to the eight months pregnant teacher, because I didn’t recognize my own boundaries! I wanted to be helpful and pleasing and it didn’t work out. So, it was very embarrassing. And I was upset about it. But it also taught me that, sometimes I just need to say no.” But what about the identity shift?
So, Grieve the Loss of What You Thought You’d Do
Many of us internalize what we do as who we are. And feel lost when our schedules don’t express our values. But Caroline explains, “You can grieve for the things that you put a hold on.”
When her son recently stepped out of Scouts, she pulled back from volunteering with his troop. She explained, “I’m still working full-time in my clinical practice. And I’m working to develop all the resources with Invisible Riptide. I had to step back from Scouts and that makes me sad, I do miss it and so, it’s also okay to grieve the change.”
It Can be a Temporary Pause
Saying ‘no’ to something doesn’t have to be permanent. Caroline said, “You can decide, ‘maybe I can get back to it at a certain time’ or you can look around your tribe to see who can fill in for you.”
You are brilliant but do you have to fill every role? In your professional life, leadership includes a supportive infrastructure. So, you can build a succession plan. And turn projects over to other competent people eager for that experience. How often do you ask for support?
Ask for Help
Although most meal trains and fund drives, are staffed with volunteer Moms, we rarely feel comfortable accepting help. But learning how to do this, is important. Caroline said, “A lot of times if somebody knows you’re going through a struggle they’ll say, ‘what can I do to help?’ Then you actually have to tell them what they can do to help.”
When you feel like you’re drowning in responsibility without relief, consider a prepared ask. Whether it’s to take on the volunteer assignment, host the play date or handle the pickup, people in your life can assist. And the extra space will feel good. Are you worried you’ll let go of too much?
Reassess Your Core Needs
Caroline advises, “It’s finding that balance. And if the scale starts to go in one direction that can feel bad. So, when you feel like you’re doing pretty well and you’ve pulled back to do the things you need to do, then it’s likely things will change.”
Our lives aren’t static. And feeling distraught about the intensity is normal. And addressable. She added, “Then, if you feel like you’re missing something, almost like a hole and you need something to fill it in, you can kind of pause.”
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
Caroline said, “If something doesn’t feel right that’s a signal to pay attention. What do you miss? What do you think you might need? And then maybe there’s a different way you can get what you need and that may not be bad. Because we tend to grow and change. So, even if you put it on pause and never get back to that thing specifically, you might find something else that you didn’t even know was a possibility.” Allow yourself to grow.
And Consider New Ways to Find Fulfillment
Caroline explains, “You might say, ‘well I can’t do this particular role in the organization. But I might be able to do this other thing.’ And so, it’s a little bit of pivoting and adapting. But sometimes you need that full pause before you figure out what it is you need. Because when you’re in the middle of things it’s hard to assess.”
So, embrace the discomfort that comes with transformation. And give yourself the gift of grace to let things go.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Caroline Danda!
Follow her great adventure on her practice website, LinkedIn and Facebook. And learn more about resources from her business The Invisible Riptide. You can also check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
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Dr. Caroline Danda is a private practice clinical psychologist who works with children and adolescents with anxiety, depression, and other emotional or behavioral regulation problems. She loves working with children and teens who have “big emotions.” And has a passion for normalizing mental and emotional well-being and helping youth and their families resolve current challenges and develop foundational skills for thriving.
She has been active in various community organizations and schools. With the onset of the pandemic, her passion for sharing information and making mental health resources accessible led to her partnering with Carron Montgomery to develop and create The Invisible Riptide book series and website. Partnering with Carron Montgomery was a natural extension of her passion, allowing her to bring her wisdom and experience outside her office to fill the gaps.
She is also a wife and a mother of three boys. Based on her experience in clinical practice, in the community, and within her own family, she has a talent for tailoring information and skills to meet the needs of individuals and their families. Her goals are to provide accessible, practical information to empower individuals and families to find out what works for them.