One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten regarding my mental health is to only take on as much as I feel capable of taking on.
Sometimes when I am depressed that might mean considering something as simple as taking a shower to be a triumph, which can be hard for me because my productivity can feel equal to my worth – which isn’t true.
Lately I have been practicing not biting off more than I can chew, but it has been a really difficult idea to master. It seems like I can frequently plan on taking a small bite and somehow wind up mowing down the whole damn chocolate bar.
There are a lot of elements that can add to this phenomenon, things like stress and external pressure from obligations can make it hard to scale back the things I am taking on. Experiencing episodes in the manic end of the bipolar mood spectrum often make me feel invincible and like taking on 25 extra tasks is not only worthwhile but easy (which isn’t always true).
I know I can also make the process hard for myself because I am someone who generally feels more comfortable processing and planning what I need to do before I do it (without the impulsivity of mania, anyway!). Unexpected changes in the plan I’ve set for myself can cause me to shut down just to try to process them.
Much like eating a slice of pizza may only take a few minutes (less if you’re really hungry), suddenly finding yourself tackling an entire pizza by yourself will not only take a different strategy, but also significantly more time.
It isn’t uncommon for people to say that I am not always great at adjusting quickly in situations where my plans have been derailed, and part of that is because many times my plans have budgeted for what I currently feel capable and able to accomplish. Entering into a situation, no matter how simple, after working myself into a position of calm and confidence…
…only to find myself having to eat through an entire pizza instead of a single slice generally means facing some big emotional upheaval and panic beyond the simple act of trying to rapidly digest more new information that I feel I can handle.
Though I am working on learning ways to absorb and adapt to new information more quickly, there are times where I am so focused on trying to get that whole pizza down that I lose track of the conversation we’re having, or where I am going, or I forget to have fun. This can create an awkward environment for everyone involved, and what’s worse is I can tell when I am doing it so I also feel very self-conscious.
The holidays are a difficult time to try to keep things simple, with plans constantly changing it can be really rough trying to be prepared emotionally and conscientious about how much I am taking on at any given time. Being in a situation where I find myself choosing between pleasing the people I love and taking care of my [mental and/or physical] health usually feels unfair, but is an unfortunate reality that I am faced with on a regular basis.
Luckily the process seems much less daunting when my friends and family remember maintaining our relationships work best when they involve:
- Being patient
- Not taking my absence in any situation personally
- Allowing me to prepare for stressful events or situations in advance, when possible
- Discussion so we can be on the same page
- Respecting my boundaries and personal space
- Being open and discussing your needs too!
Ultimately creating and maintaining relationships without retaining an unnecessary sense of guilt or shame when I am having a difficult time has been a learning process, but surrounding myself with people who are capable of being understanding when the most I might be able to handle is a single bite (as opposed to the whole meal) has made a huge difference!