To the Woman Who is Exhausted

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It’s no wonder you feel so stretched, so threadbare. The voices and forces competing for your attention are many, and they are unrelenting. Some by necessity, some unfairly, yet they demand – loudly – the focus of your eyes and the energy of your heart.

Each need from someone outside you is like another string pulling a part of the marionette in a different direction.

Trouble is, you are not a puppet. And your energy and attention and capacity for stress are finite resources. There are only 24 hours in the day, and only so many fires you can extinguish and problems you can solve and emotions you can soothe and tears you can dry… especially when those tears are your own.

A woman cannot be all things, to all people, all the time.

Yet, we try. We are the fixers. We are the burden-carriers. The de facto cheerleaders and therapists and nannies who too often bury our own heavy heart to tend to others’. We are walking calendars and to-do lists, filled with tasks that appear invisible to everyone else. That saying, “Poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part,” doesn’t seem to apply to us. Somehow, some way, we pull the proverbial bunny from the magic hat, time after time.

But at what cost? When we become so stretched, so threadbare, who are we to ourselves?

My exhausted sister, if you’re reading this, please move yourself toward the top of the priority list, whether that’s in a big way, or a small one. Choose yourself. Cultivate your peace. Protect your sanity. Elevate your own needs, whatever they may be.

And if you’re not entirely sure what those needs are in this moment, stop what you’re doing and simply ask yourself this: How do I feel? and What do I need?

Regularly asking myself – and being able to answer – those two questions is the practice that’s saved me.

How do I feel? What do I need?

Sometimes the reflection nets a practical response – “I feel hungry… and I need a snack” – and sometimes it’s bigger. Deeper. Some examples:

I feel emotionally dysregulated in this moment… and I need to take five minutes to breathe.

I feel overwhelmed by sadness and grief… and I need to release the tears.

I feel overscheduled… and I need to decline the next three invitations.

I feel disconnected in my marriage… and I need to talk honestly about it.

I feel out of alignment with my values… and I need to reprioritize my time, energy, and attention.

I feel unprepared for what’s happening next… and I need to spend thoughtful time getting ready, both mentally and materially.

I feel undervalued in my work… and I need to explore other options.

I feel so freaking angry and resentful… and I need to write a burn letter to let it all out.

I feel triggered by the trauma of my childhood… and I need professional help to heal.

I feel uninspired… and I need some time in nature.

I feel like my thoughts are a million wiggling strands of spaghetti… and I need to journal to help make sense of it.

I feel like I’ve been quiet for too long… and I need to have a courageous conversation.

The combination of feelings and needs are limitless… but we can’t meet our own needs until we identify them, and we can’t identify them until we are attuned to our feelings.

So, my exhausted sister, this is your call to go inward. Take honest stock. And then do the thing that needs to be done, the thing that only you can do.

You deserve your own care.


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