overworked

Stretched to the Max and Trying to Make Time for Self-Care

The best saltwater taffy in the entire world comes from a little store called The Taffy Shop in Estes Park, Colorado. In the window sits an old-fashioned machine with rotating arms that pull the taffy. It stretches the taffy into ropes of pastel sugary sweetness, which droops down and is then picked up by another arm, repeating over and over again. It is almost mesmerizing to watch.

I mention the taffy and the machine because yesterday I felt like it was a perfect visual metaphor for how I have been feeling recently; I am the taffy and the machine is life. I feel as though I have been stretched and stretched and just when you think the rope of taffy will break or fall, an arm picks it up and continues to mash it and stretch it in a different direction.

Have you ever been so busy, so overtaken by responsibilities and things that must be done that you feel like you’ve hit a wall and just can’t go any further? That’s the way I’ve felt. The last three weeks have been difficult for me.

In a bout of uncharacteristic weather for this time of year, we have had multiple thunderstorms in the last two weeks. One of these occurred while my husband was working late out of town one night.

I didn’t know there were severe thunderstorms forecasted for that night, but my mother-in-law sent me a text message about it so I turned on the TV to see the storms on the radar. Towns in the storm’s path had lost electricity and had been hit by high winds and hail, so I decided to prepare and take things we might need to the basement and locate some flashlights and lanterns.

Sure enough, the storm hit and I took the kids downstairs. I could hear the furniture on the deck moving around and hoped that it would not be blown through the sliding glass door. It began to hail and rain hard and then the lights went out. Of course, the kids freaked out because they don’t like storms, the electricity went off, and my husband was not home.

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After the hail stopped I went room to room with a flashlight checking to make sure no windows had broken and no water was invading our basement. Alas, the spare bedroom had water streaming down the wall from the recessed window. This had never happened in the five years we have lived in the house and obviously, it had to happen when I was home alone with the kids in the dark. I began to pick up anything that was on the floor in the room and either move it to a different room or pile it on top of the bed. The carpet was wet about halfway through the room but it had stopped raining and no more water was coming in.

The whole time I was attempting to save several of my paintings, the new mattress and box springs, and other objects in the room I was trying to do so by the light of a flashlight that I could not hold because my hands were full and my kids were both screaming in the next room. They were scared, they wanted me, and they didn’t want to sit in the lantern-lit room and play with their toys or color as I asked them to. As you might imagine, my anxiety was in full swing, I was worried about the basement flooding, I was being screamed at by two kids, and I was tired.

It stopped storming and I finally got the amped-up kids to sleep two hours later than normal, squished together like sardines in a can on top of my bed.

I didn’t know, but it rained again and more rain came in the basement soaking the entire carpet. My husband woke me up later upset that I had not removed everything from the room. I did what I could and could do no more.

The storm was just a precursor for the crappy week to come.

Another thunderstorm flooded the basement bedroom, this time not from the window, so we aren’t sure where the water came from. We had to cut out and dispose of the carpeting and padding, which was soaked like a sponge. Now the basement is not really navigatable because of all the crap from that room hastily placed elsewhere so that it would stay dry.

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My husband has been burning the candle at both ends and trying to work two jobs. I honestly don’t know how he does it. He makes me worry about how much stress he is under, how little sleep he gets, and how it is affecting his health.

Because he is working 60+ hours a week, this leaves all the things he needs to do around the house, like mowing or replacing the broken garage door opener, all to be squeezed into Sunday. Other than during the daily drive to and from work and dinnertime, I feel like we haven’t seen each other during waking hours.

Since he has been so busy I have been spending more time alone with the kids. I love spending so much time with them but I have found that my patience has been at a lower level than normal while my stress and anxiety have been higher. I feel like I haven’t been able to give them the best of myself.

Oscar is getting two new teeth and has wanted to cuddle with me each morning around 4:00 a.m. The time spent sleeping with him in an uncomfortable sleeping position on the couch has made my back, neck, and shoulders sore. Along with that, I have had three migraines in a little over a week, plus other headaches. I have felt like shit and have just wanted to sleep. My neck and shoulders have been so tight and tense and I know that has been contributing to my headaches.

Like other mothers, I know that I need to make more time and effort for self-care. Self-care is so important for physical and mental health, but finding time in an already busy schedule is extremely difficult. Plus, I am always the caregiver, so it is hard for me to switch that off and take care of myself. I always feel guilty spending time and money on myself, but I have resolved to really try this week.

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I don’t normally spend money on “frivolous” things like massages, but I know that my neck and back haven’t felt any better when I have tried using my foam roller and massage therapy balls, Biofreeze cream, and self-massage, so I made an appointment for my lunch break on Wednesday.

The massage felt wonderful and I enjoyed it, but I kept having to actively try to force myself to relax. I kept feeling my body tense up over and over again. When the hour was over I finally felt like I was relaxed enough to start benefiting from the massage but it was done. I felt better afterward but had another headache that afternoon. Oh, well.

I have tried to go to be earlier each night in an effort to get more sleep, but I don’t know how effective that has been. It seems that even though I am tired my mind keeps going over and over things for hours.

I also have tried to stay off of social media, stop listening to my favorite political podcasts, and stop reading the news. I was dubious that this would have any effect on my anxiety and general outlook, but it really has made me feel better.

I am hoping this weekend goes better and we do not get any more rain in our house, although as I write this I can hear another storm pelting the roof of my office.

Regardless, I am going to try to take care of myself; take it one day, one hour at a time, relax, and breathe!

One thought on “Stretched to the Max and Trying to Make Time for Self-Care

  1. motherhoodnmedia says:

    I definitely know the feeling. I’ve burned myself out so badly by putting work, my daughter, school, my husband, friends, etc. before my own needs. But you really can’t do anything well if your own needs aren’t met.

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