Perhaps the number one way I have learned to avoid burnout is by limiting my goals to one thing a day. Of course, I do more than one thing a day, but nothing overwhelming.
The Spoon Theory
Most people have heard of the Spoon Theory, Christine Miserandino wrote about in her 2003 essay. While it doesn’t fit everyone’s specific situation, it is a great way to visualize what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition. I first learned of this theory when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and then, fibromyalgia.
Then, my husband was diagnosed with cancer.
It was difficult for him to learn how to cope with his declining energy and health. At the end of each day, he would say that “it was a good day,” and then, list the things he had accomplished, or he would declare it a bad day because he didn’t feel he had accomplished enough.
He never had 2 good days in a row, because on the days he felt good, he wanted to use that energy to get the things done that he couldn’t do on his “bad” days. Unfortunately, that left him drained. Overdoing it would lead him to spend the next day in bed, recuperating.
There had to be some balance
Through trial and error, he learned that he should limit himself to one thing a day. If it was going to be something big, like a trip to the zoo, he would have to rest the day before and plan a day of recuperation the day after. If it was a smaller commitment, such as a men’s Bible study, he would have to ensure that the Bible study was the only thing he had on his calendar, that day. It took 2 years for him to accept that doing only one thing a day was essential to maintaining energy balance, but once he did, life improved.
It’s about adjusting your expectations
There is nothing more frustrating than planning out your week, and then being unable to get out of bed to achieve your goals. You might not have a physical limitation such as your loved one who is facing cancer, but you are doing far more than most people. It’s good to spend some time each day, resting, and make sure that you don’t over-book yourself.
One Thing Each Day Helps You Prioritize.
When you have to choose one thing each day, you will try to choose the most important thing. Everything else supports that goal. As a caregiver, this way of managing energy helps me to be creative in order to accomplish what I need to get done.
What does this look like?
I keep a paper planner and most days have something written on them. If Dan has appointments, they will be the only thing I plan for. They could take hours and they will definitely be draining—emotionally and physically. But, on Tuesdays my daughters and I take a carving class. It’s only a couple of hours and although it can be physically taxing, I know that I can add something to my morning schedule.
Only one thing a day??
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all of the other things you need to do every day get ignored. It just means that you only do one out-of-the-ordinary thing each day. This is especially helpful for low energy people. Some people thrive on activity. For those people, this might not be a positive method of avoiding burn out. You will know if this is for you or not. Either way, it’s a good idea to give this a try.
Once again I will be doing double duty in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be sharing ways to avoid burnout, here at Facing Cancer with Grace. At Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways of thinking creatively, using Brainsparker’s Kickstart Course of A to Z prompts. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites.
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker