The self-care culture has a lot of ideas around things you should do AND add to your already busy life.
But what if instead of adding, you could choose to release?
What can you let go of that no longer serves you?
The overwhelm is real
When speaking with caregivers who are struggling, I hear them describe their experience in a couple of different ways.
Some describe feeling overwhelmed and weighed down, as though their cup feels too full or too heavy to hold. Others describe feeling burnt out or depleted like their cup is empty, deserted or fried.
Let me assure you that both of these feelings are completely normal and can co-exist.
In our busy, “on the go” world, it’s common to feel overloaded with responsibilities and never-ending to-do lists. But when you become too busy and over-scheduled, it can be difficult to find the space for the things that fill your cup.
And while it’s important to make space for things that feel energizing and restorative, sometimes it can feel more helpful to release something first.
Release to reduce the overwhelm
Letting go and deleting things from your to-do list may sound great in theory. But it can sometimes feel challenging to figure out what it is that you may need to let go of in the first place.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when making this consideration.
What are you holding on to that you don't require anymore?
Are you inserting yourself into a situation where you aren't needed?
What battles are you fighting that aren't yours to fight?
What burdens are you carrying that aren't yours to carry anymore?
What expectations do you hold for yourself that no one else does?
Maybe at one time, you needed to be more involved in a particular situation. But life changes, children grow, circumstances evolve and these things you are holding onto may no longer be yours to hold.
Give yourself permission to release them.
Letting go of hinderances
This concept came to life for me in a very simple situation in our home.
When my children were little, I had a safety latch on the door under the kitchen sink. It's where we stored some cleaning supplies and our garbage so naturally, this child safety latch was a very necessary precaution when we had curious toddlers around.
Fast forward 6 years later and the latch was still there and was now becoming a giant annoyance every single time we opened the door.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine found herself tripped up several times on the silly latch one day that I realized it was time to let it go.
"Why do you still have this here?” she said.
Your kids are 6 and 8 years old. They don't need this anymore".
I came up with some lame excuse about having friends with littles who visit often or my sister in law and her toddlers stay on occasion.
My friend didn't buy it and she took matters into her own hands, found a screwdriver, and removed the latch.
The freedom I felt afterward was remarkable.
The latch had been there for so long that I no longer noticed it yet I was struck by the immense relief I felt after it was gone. Going under the sink became so much easier. What was once a very necessary protective strategy, now became a hinderance.
It was time to thank the latch for protecting my children and let go of it to experience a sense of ease.
What hinderances exist in your life that may be holding you back?
How many protective strategies or stories have you developed to create a sense of safety within that you no longer need?
Releasing those hinderances may feel challenging at first, but once you’ve removed them, you’ll feel a tremendous amount of freedom.
Letting go of responsibilities
I used to be incredibly involved in my son's eating. He's a picky (or perhaps selective) eater and when he was little, we fell into a pattern of eating and feeding where I remained involved for far too long.
I remember an occasion where I was literally holding the corn on the cob for him to eat when he was 3 years old - definitely old enough to hold it himself! I was so concerned with him eating "enough" that I still spoon-fed him on occasion.
I realized I had become far too involved in a responsibility that actually belonged to him.
My job was to provide a variety of food at regular intervals in a safe location. After that, my job was done. What and how much he eats of what's offered is entirely up to him. I needed to let go. Feeding him was no longer my responsibility.
It was my son's responsibility to develop a healthy relationship with food and I needed to take a step back. As I've come to release that responsibility, my own load has become lighter. The arguments have decreased and my son feels more comfortable trying new things with reduced pressure from me.
Letting go has allowed us both to feel free.
How many things like this are you holding onto?
How many jobs do you feel responsible for that your children are now old enough to manage?
Things like sleeping independently, cleaning up after themselves, doing the dishes, or managing schoolwork?
Where can we let go of some sense of responsibility and share the load?
Letting go of self-imposed expectations
As a stay at home parent for the first few years of my boys' lives, I felt it was my responsibility to care for them all of the time.
When I did go out and leave them in the care of my husband, I often struggled to be fully present wherever I was. A part of me was still at home worrying whether he was okay.
I was still feeling like it was my responsibility to ensure everything was fine even when I wasn't there. I wasn't able to accept the support he provided and let go of the expectation that I was responsible for the children - always. It took time for me to let go and accept the support my husband was offering me.
Self-care isn't just about what you can do for yourself.
It's what you can allow others to do so that you don't have to anymore.
It's about staying awake to all things you're carrying and discerning whether or not you need to carry them anymore.
And as you release these things, you can do so with love, gratitude, and kindness. Thank these things for how they have served you and release them to allow for more freedom.
And so, I invite you to think about what you can lovingly release to relieve the burden you're carrying.
How can you create space for the things that restore the cup that holds you?
What can you let go of that no longer serves you?