Counselor Self-Care: Tending and Letting Go

Marcy Pigglesworth demands tending, yo.

I am totally That Girl–really wound up, Type A, on the move all the time, a perfectionist. I thrive on order, organization, routine, and cleanliness, and have small (or large) freakouts when this need isn’t being met, feeling like I can’t even think or function. Orderly surroundings=orderly mind, in my world.

Left unchecked, my tendencies affect my emotional health, which in turn can affect how present I am when helping someone and the rest of my personal relationships. I also tend to prepare for “free time,” with the result that I get very little actual free time because something always needs to be done. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe.

To combat this, I’ve been trying an approach I call tending and letting go. Tending is taking care of the little things that need to be done but still bring enjoyment. For me, that’s playing with the guinea pigs, walking the dog, watching an episode of Modern Family with my husband, winding our cuckoo clock, making soup to freeze for later, or weeding our giant basil patch in the summer. Someday, our lives will be very different–the guinea pigs will pass away, children will enter the picture, we’ll live someplace different. I want to enjoy what I have now. This is the easier half of the equation.

The more difficult half is letting go. In order to tend to the more enjoyable things in life, sometime I have to put off little chores that would contribute to an orderly environment. For example, I got home from class really late last night and was greeted by some dirty dishes. I also really needed to care for myself by getting enough sleep. I arranged the dishes neatly, got my sleep, and wasn’t horrified by the mess when I got up this morning. The same thing goes for the monster pile of towels from having houseguests this weekend–they will wait another day so that I can do homework and read a little this evening.

This lesson might be obvious to some, but it’s been hard one for me and I still struggle. I’ve been so busy for the past 28 years! I’m progressing a little each day, taking pride in enjoying the little things I’ve been blessed with, and forgiving myself when I slip and get a little wound up.

Since I’m still learning: How do you maintain balance in the little things?

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