Minding the Margins
Minding the Margins avatar

Brandon Tomlinson, CTWillow Wisdom

When you get on an airplane, they inevitably walk you through the emergency instructions should something go amiss. One of the primary instructions says that, in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, you are supposed to secure your own oxygen mask before you assist those around you. Why? Because if you pass out, you’re a danger to yourself and no help to anyone else.

Why do I bring this up? I do so because there’s this force in our culture that has labeled burnout an admirable state of being. The ideal we chase now screams at us to help everyone else and accomplish everything you can and “go go go!” until there is nothing left to give. It is likely not a conscious choice. It is more so the slow gathering of a broader cultural mindset combined with the penchant individuals have for picking up tasks they feel they must complete to be perceived as successful.

We have seen the growth of this unhealthy mindset in the lives of school kids, in our work lives, and even in our leisure time. So many often dedicate what time they do not have allocated to their functional roles to busyness (running the kids here and there, taking that extra class, offering to run that extra PTA activity, etc.). People have no margins, no stop point where they acknowledge their healthy limits. We often don’t do enough to take care of ourselves. Writes Dr. Richard A. Swenson, former professor at University of Wisconsin Medical School:

“It is important to understand our emotional reserves. It is important to understand how much we have at the beginning of each day and which influences drain our emotions dry or recharge our batteries. It is important to learn what our limits are, and not to make further withdrawals if we are already maximally depleted.”

Therefore, we must start relearning how to mind our margins and appreciate our physical, emotional, and mental limits. If we don’t, chronic burnout will become our lot in life, and it is a lot I am willing to guess no one wants.

The question then becomes this: “How do I mind my margins?” Try these three simple steps:

  1. Find something relaxing and SCHEDULE IT. People need to make time to relax. Anything that is dreamt about or planned on without being put down to a specific time will likely not happen. Scheduled R & R is much better than none. If you don’t know what’s relaxing to you, try picking something up you used to do but tell yourself “I just don’t have time for that anymore.
  2. Make priority lists. Instead of attempting to take on many things simultaneously, make sure you list in order of priority things that need to get done. This can help ensure that the overwhelmed feelings leading to over-busyness are allayed.
  3. Learn to turn things down. Now, I’m not saying turn everything down. What I am saying is that it’s important to acknowledge that you’re limited. If you have to say no to extra things, be okay with that. We’re not Kryptonians. We need to make sure we’re not overburdening ourselves.

I hope this helps! Happy margin-minding!