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The next time you’re overwhelmed, ask yourself these 3 questions



Anna O'Neil - published on 06/20/18

When you’re too busy for “me" time, this mental exercise will help a lot.

In terms of pure frustration, you can’t top those days when you know you need a break, and you also know there’s no way you’re going to get one. There are too many other needs to be met, and somebody has to take last place, and that somebody is going to be you.

The moms who are reading this are probably nodding, but it’s not just us — anyone whose life and vocation (hi there, priests!) has to do with putting other people first is probably very familiar with such days. Sometimes, your work is so important that there’s literally no room in the day for the “me” time, or the self care you legitimately need. Sometimes life is just too busy.

I mean, can you really tell a mother of triplets, “You’re working too hard. You need a glass of wine and a nap”?  She knows she needs it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

I’ve started playing a little game with myself on the days I know I’m going to end up with the short straw. It’s pretty simple and involves answering just three questions:

What are you good at?

What do you love to do?

Where do you love to be?

The questions aren’t supposed to be a challenge. “You like spinning yarn from alpaca wool? You’re good at restoring antique furniture? You want to live in the country? Well, stop making excuses, and go do it!” When you’re struggling to get through the day, it’s not going to cheer you up to hear that your current lack of satisfaction is all your fault.

I always feel more peaceful after I answer the questions, though, because I remember that where I am has no bearing on who I am.

Even if I don’t have anywhere near what I need to be pursuing my passions, the questions remind me that I do have passions. That I do have a unique personality, and real talents — even if it’ll be years before I get to use them. My role as wife and mother are hugely important in my life, but even without those roles, I would still be me. My answers would be the same.

Especially during the most hectic weeks and months, you might surprise yourself with your answers. I’d forgotten how much I love to paint and do jigsaw puzzles, since I’ve had toddlers around for so long now. I’d kind of forgotten how good my attention span can be, when it’s not being tugged in five different directions. And I’d absolutely forgotten how much lying flat on the grass in the summer makes me feel connected with the world.

The questions bring me a lot of joy, and they bring 10 times as much joy when I invite my friends to answer them, too. Everybody needs a chance to remember who they are, and an invitation to share that with another human being is a real gift.

When I asked my own friends these questions, some people remembered right away that they love mountains and lakesides, that they’re good at quilting, or hiking, or logic puzzles, and some of my friends needed a few days to ponder the answers, but all of us came up with something. And all of us came away from the conversation with a sense of gladness.  Everybody needs to stop and remember who they are. It doesn’t seem like much, but it helps a lot.

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