My friend Bob is an amazing person. Bob works a full-time job for a NASCAR team and, in his spare time, uses his impressive diagnostic mind to help his friends and sons with projects bordering on genius. He volunteers regularly to help his neighbor, who is a mature woman living alone. He and his wife are active in charities, especially those involving animal rescue, and he actively instructs people on the complexities of automobiles. Bob normally starts his day’s activities at 5:30 a.m. and ends well after the sun has set. In every way, he is a model citizen, and he is greatly admired, except that Bob has a troubling shortcoming, and it may be getting him in trouble.
My friend drives himself to near exhaustion. Between work, volunteering, charities and mentoring, he leaves very little time for himself. He once told me he doesn’t like the idea of disappointing anyone.
“If I cut back, I would be letting someone down,” he said.
While I appreciate everything that he does, I worry for Bob. He spends so much time trying to help everyone else that he is neglecting himself. I worry that he is stretching himself out so far in his quest to not disappoint anyone that his internal “rubber band” will break. In fact, there are signs that the rubber band may be starting to fray.
Bob forgets someone very important these days—himself. In his quest to be the perfect husband, father, friend and neighbor, he barely relaxes, hardly has time to enjoy any downtime, and seldom takes a breather to simply wake up and smell the coffee. While we all appreciate what he does, it is what he does not do that is a concern. He doesn’t nurture himself.
It is arguable, of course, that his propensity to construct things nourishes his creative side or that his work in helping family and friends encourages his soul to be even more beautiful than it is; however, the pace is taking its toll.
Bob has conveyed that he wishes some people would step up and help him every once in awhile instead of it always being the other way around. He is getting burned-out. Bob is smart enough to know he can’t make everyone happy, but he is kindhearted enough to keep trying.
In a recent conversation, Bob shared with me that his primary care doctor advised that he needed to go in for some medical tests related to an irregular heartbeat and adrenal fatigue. Bob has been frustrated and was surprised to hear the diagnosis because he had no history of heart problems and never used to be exhausted to the point of inactivity. In fact, he was always working on a project of some sort.
Where did this come from?
I am certainly not a doctor, and I would never presume to analyze anyone’s health challenges, but I cannot help but personally believe that he has worn himself to a frazzle by trying to be everything to everybody.
Don’t Worry – Be Active
The new norm in our society is to try to fill every vacant second with activity. We over-schedule our children and we over-schedule ourselves. I only need to look as far as my own children to know that this is more fact than opinion. A great many of us don’t get enough sleep, and it is astonishing how many of us sleep with our smartphones (up to 83 percent of Millennials!). We must occupy ourselves almost all of the time, and frequently that time is technology-driven. We are told it is good to be connected, but is it good for us? A great many physicians and psychologists tell us it isn’t.
We need and crave downtime. Don’t forget yourself today. You deserve to nurture yourself, and you deserve to be calm, quiet and content from time to time. Pay attention to what is happening in your current situation and free up your schedule. Sit in a chair under a tree with your favorite beverage. Read a joke book. Pop some popcorn. Hang out with your cat or dog. Play with squirt guns. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Spend an afternoon lying in a hammock. This thing called life is so precious and short. Tomorrow morning, wake up and smell the coffee, then enjoy the first cup while sitting in your favorite chair doing absolutely nothing!