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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

Taking Stock

This week, I was telling my therapist that I felt stressed and overwhelmed. I've had so much on my plate that I constantly feel behind, like it's never enough. She encouraged me to examine what I'm spending my time and energy on, where my stress is coming from, how much of that is pressure I'm putting on myself, and how I can let go.

I'm now working two paid jobs, two volunteer jobs, writing two books, submitting essays and stories, querying agents, writing a weekly blog, in two writers groups, applying for two major grants due in the next week, playing soccer, hockey, skiing and snowboarding, and somehow finding time to spend with my friends, family, and husband. When I lay it all out like that, it seems like a lot. No wonder I'm stressed and occasionally need a nap.

It's easy for those of us who take on a lot at once to just keep plugging away without taking the time to step back and assess. Where am I getting my energy from? What's taking it away? Can I really add one more thing?

Until recently, I was also writing four book reviews a month. But when the Editor-in-Chief realized he could no longer afford to pay his writers, I had to bow out. A few years ago, this decision would have riddled me with guilt. I do enjoy reading and writing reviews. But, I realized, I do too much already and can't afford to take on another unpaid job. I had to make that choice for me, had to take stock of what I'm up to and how much I can handle, had to draw a line somewhere.

While you're buzzing around like a hummingbird, remember to sit back and take stock of what's on your plate, what you might be able to let go of. Also important is knowing when you need a break, or learning how to say I'm done for the day. At a certain point, you need to tune out from the chaos of the day, the constant movement, and sit still. It can be hard to do this. Often, as soon as I close my computer and announce I'm clocking out (these days, I'm often still working while I make dinner), I get one more idea I have to get down, or see one more email come through that I just have to deal with. It can be hard to say, nope, I'm done right now (or jot the idea down quick and get to it tomorrow). Those of us who never stop moving have to learn how to draw a line and set boundaries for ourselves. We have to learn to say, "I've done enough for today."

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