“I just need a break” (Episode 73)

Humans need rest. It’s a biological fact. Why, then, do we push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion, mental anguish, and physical stress before we finally whisper to someone, “I need a break”? Join host Kay Coughlin in this episode to find out how you can help yourself get a break before you are desperate. As always, no judgment and no guilt!

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Transcript of episode is below.

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Do you need to find a way to get some rest and take control of your own life again? You can, even if you believe that you can't possibly take care of yourself when the people around you need you so much!

Transcript: “I just need a break” (episode 73)

Hi there. I’m your host Kay Coughlin. And you’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am a life coach for family caregivers and sandwich family caregivers like me, who want to get some rest and feel less lonely. I taught myself how to navigate all of my responsibilities and get into the mindset I need so that I can set boundaries, have self-compassion and prioritize myself so that my needs get met, too. And that’s what I help my clients do also. And if we can do it, I know you can too.

This is episode 73.

Hi, there. I am recording this episode just after I’m back from a week-long vacation. I went camping, which I love. I took lots of walks and I read a lot of books. So it was really nice. It was a week filled with lots of things that I really do love, and that really feed my soul.

And in the end, it definitely was a restful time that I spent. And a lot of it was alone. I did get to see some good friends and I took some time to just hang out with my kids and my mom and my husband, and really that was all wonderful.

But I have to confess, I waited way too long to take my vacation. In fact, I waited to do it until I was pretty much desperate for it.

By the time I took my vacation, I was really worn out and I was starting to get crispy, which is one of the terms that a client of mine really likes to use to describe it when you just go too long and you can’t give any more.

While I was away, it took me a few days to really unwind and just give myself the permission that I needed to sink into the rest that I needed so badly.

Now, one of the things that happens when I’m really resting, and certainly when I’m on vacation, I try to be really intentional about taking a break from my work and from educating myself about my work. And that’s really hard to do because I absolutely love what I do. And I love learning new things and I love educating myself, but I just, I’m a better person and I’m a better business owner and I’m a better coach when I take a break.

So I really took a break from studying or working on anything having to do with my business. And something became really clear to me, I think because I was taking that time to just let my mind drift wherever it needed to go.

What I realized was that I had waited for other people to notice how badly I needed the break before I scheduled it.

Everybody was saying to me, you deserve this time off. And while it’s true that I deserved a break, I mean, I’m not going to argue about that. That was definitely the case. I know the real truth instead. And it’s this: we don’t have to earn a break. We don’t have to deserve a break. We don’t need some kind of special permission from someone to be tired or to just need a break.

You know, besides the fact that we’ve been through a pandemic and that’s still raging in a lot of places in the world, and we’ve seen a lot of illnesses and we have these caregiver responsibilities. So a lot of our life and our work is just relentless.

 We don’t need a diagnosis to just be tired. We’re humans. It’s a biological necessity for us to take a break.

So what is it that keeps us from saying, “I’m worn out. I’m just tired and I really need a break”?

You know, I am such a really humongous fan of formal mental health care. Let me be really clear about that. When you need help from a professional, ask for it. Go get it. Okay. Take care of yourself in that way.

But there are a lot of things about our lives that are really more informal than that and where we don’t need a diagnosis. And certainly where we don’t need an excuse to just take care of ourselves because we’re human. What if we could just set aside all of the fancy words and the cultural phrases and the cultural norms and, and what if we could just say I’m tired?

And then take a break, get some rest.

Now it’s hard to believe that we don’t have to earn our rest because we live in a culture that does make us work for it. That does believe that we should earn it, that we should prove we need it before we dare to take. And that we should deny we need a break and deny we need rest, unless we have done something to deserve it. There’s some kind of an external validation that we need to prove that we’ve done enough to earn this break.

And this actually right now, as I’m talking about it, this is making me sick to my stomach because I know it’s not true. We have this belief that if we are dedicated and loving. And certainly if we’re family caregivers, that we have to be dedicated and loving and utterly self-sacrificing, that we can’t take care of ourselves at all. Or that would mean that we’re not dedicated and loving.

But these things can be true at the same time. We can be dedicated and very loving and we can be humans who need breaks. We are human, our bodies and our minds are human. We are not robots. Biologically, we need rest. We need breaks. It’s not some sort of a judgment of you or me that we’re a bad person when we need help and need breaks. That’s just part of the human condition. Even if the cultural norm goes against that.

And even if there’s some kind of standard that we really would be a bad person to admit we need a break, it doesn’t make it true.

So, what can we do about this? Well, for starters, we can start saying the words. We can tell the people in our lives that we need a break.

Oh, look, I know how hard this is because I know how many people in our lives are telling us that for whatever reason, we can’t get a break or haven’t earned it yet. And that one’s just going to continue to make me mad, I think until the end of time.

But, you know, we can just say, “I need a break.” We don’t have to make excuses. We don’t have to justify it. We don’t have to rationalize it. We’re humans. It’s just part of who we are.

So I want you to try saying it with me right now. Say “I need a break” and if you didn’t say it, I’m going to give you a chance here right now to say it with me. “I need a break.” And then after you say it, just stop.

Don’t say any more words, just say “I need a break.” Don’t try to add any kind of an explanation after it, just stop. It’s not true that you have to justify yourself. We’re human. Just say, “I need a break.”

Even if the people in your life have been telling you for as long as you can remember that you have to earn your way and that you have to prove yourself, just doesn’t make it true.

I am going to warn you right now that if you’ve been living your whole life as if you have to earn a break, just like I have, it is going to be really hard to start claiming your human right to take a break. And what’s going to happen is that you’re probably going to feel pressure from somebody in your life, you know, maybe a sister or a brother, or from your mother or your partner, or, or maybe a colleague or a boss is going to pressure you that, oh, “you don’t need it.”

But if you’re anything like me, you’re also going to feel an internal pressure not to take that break because you just know that you’re not bad enough off yet to really need that break. I know about this internal pressure. It’s what I do. I mean, I do get pressure from other people, but the most intense pressure comes from me.

Recording this episode today is it’s really, even harder than I thought it would be because I have to admit that at one point in my life and actually not all that long ago, I was really good about taking breaks just because, and I was really good about taking breaks way in advance of actually being desperate for one like happened to me a few weeks ago.

But I, I lost my grip on that. I somehow slipped back into my old pattern and I forgot how important it is. So I just have to admit it to you here publicly in case this is what you’re doing to yourself as well. And I’m, I’m saying here, I’m going to take better care of myself when it comes to taking breaks that I need and getting the rest that I need, because I am human. I’m just not going to leave it to chance in the future.

And you don’t have to leave it to chance either. Now, I know you’re wondering how in the heck is that going to work? Well for one thing, I am telling you we can schedule the next several breaks. And I mean the next several, like four or five or 10. Schedule short breaks, five minutes or an hour or an afternoon, and schedule out some longer ones, make these breaks happen as regular occurrences. We can do this.

You know, some breaks you need on a daily basis and some are weekly and some are monthly, and it depends on the kind of break or the kind of rest that you need.

Now, in order to do this, you and me, we are going to have to tell the people who need to know that we’re scheduling these breaks. And we’re going to have to get help if we need to. Oh, I almost hate saying that out loud because I know how painful it can be to admit you need help and then ask for help and then receive the help. And I do think those are three very different things, but in order to take care of ourselves, we’re going to have to do that.

Once we tell the people who need to know, we’re going to have to, to do some things, to make those breaks possible and to put them in place, whatever that means. And that could be lining up help. Honestly, it probably will be lining up help.

It could be saying no to some things. It could be temporarily hitting the pause button on some things that you normally enjoy doing.

I mean like me taking a week off from my work, I love my work and I just had to hit the pause button on it for a week because I didn’t have in me what I needed to keep going.

So I’m not saying that this is easy. Not when our entire culture is screaming at us that we shouldn’t take breaks unless we’ve really earned it or really deserve it, or really are desperate for it.

But, you know, we have family caregiver responsibilities, so it’s not like we expect things to be easy. Anyway, me and you, we are used to doing things that are hard and we can do this. So you and me together, we can both practice saying it. “I need a break.” And then we can just stop. We don’t have to explain. We don’t have to apologize and we can practice telling the people in our lives, “I need a break. And so I have scheduled this break coming up and here’s what I need you to do to make it work for me.”

I know this is hard. I know it’s hard to believe that you and me, that we have a right to just take a break and take a vacation just because we’re humans, but we really do.

So after a lifetime of pressuring myself to push on until I’m about to crumble and also getting pressure from other people to earn this break, I’m just going to call BS on it. I’m calling BS on this belief and on this cultural norm. This is for my sake, but it’s also for your sake.

And if you need to come back and listen to this podcast again, and listen to me saying to you, “you deserve a break. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be desperate before you take it because you’re human and humans have a right to breaks,” you know, come back and listen to this as many times as you need to.

I can promise you that I’ll be coming back and listening to this episode as well, because I need to hear this repeated in my ears that I am human. I don’t have to explain myself or apologize that I need a break. And that I need vacation time.

So we can do this together. You and me. I will be here for you whenever you need to hear this.

If you liked this episode, you have to go check out my monthly membership for family caregivers. And that includes parents who want to get some rest and feel less lonely. It’s the place for emotionally safe community, brave self-development, and self-compassion. You’ll find the link to it in the show notes and over in my Boundaries Community. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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