The Case for Outlets

My favorite phrase is, "It's fine, I can handle it."

For years, between juggling school, multiple jobs, and building a business, I never really said no. All too common, isn't it? I pretended my capacity had an open lid. Limitless.

However, at the end of certain days, it would actually be a mystery to me as to why I was so strung out and anxious. I'd be lying if I said this didn't happen anymore; it still does. But, as I got older, I realized an interesting concept: we all have a limit. We all have a "operating at 100%" status. There really is a point where there is too much on your plate.

You know when it comes. You show up to a doctor's appointment a day late. You talk about a birthday party to a friend who you aren't sure is invited (not thinking!). You start a sauce with Murphy's Oil Soap instead of olive oil. You get the idea.

I've lately been bewildered by how often we are expected to operate at 100%. Then we wonder why millions and millions of us turn to medication. We just can't sustain the expectations of this culture.

But, I'm a realist. It is what it is, right? We all have 10 million responsibilities, a packed calendar, and no time to cook meals. It's just the world we live in. So, how do we combat it?

We need outlets.

Don't mistake this for "hobbies." In fact, that is my least favorite word of all time. As a self-proclaimed workaholic, when friends and colleagues tell me I need a hobby that doesn't make money and is for pure enjoyment, it makes me want to feed them my Oil Soap sauce.

No. Busy women--and men, too--need outlets.

Since we can't make it so the "busy" of our world goes away, turn to what can help you tolerate it. Some people like charity work, but others just don't have the hours in the day. Perhaps even speaking on the phone to a friend can be an outlet. Exercise does it for some people. Or, you can be like me and have your eyes glaze over while playing an online game. My personal preference is Candy Crush. But, you might be one of the 72% of women in the UK who considers herself a bingo player. I hear those games get intense!

It doesn't have to enrich you mentally; it doesn't have to develop you in any way. Sometimes, it's just a matter of doing nothing for a while, if at all possible. A few months back, the stars aligned and all my students were on break at the same time. The schedule hadn't worked that well in, quite literally, years. I had a few days at home with no grading, no texts from panicked students, and I found myself decompressing. Yes, I, too, can't "sit." But...force yourself to. Here and there, at least. You really do feel refreshed.

There are tons of options, and they don't have to be cultured hobbies. You just need to know what will recharge your battery. Don't listen to people who tell you "you can't do it all." We all know you're expected to. Just be sure you have at least one outlet that doesn't feel like work.

We are all human, after all.