Lightening the Load: 6 Tips for Shrinking That Boulder to a Backpack

CIMG2124The original book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend offers an analogy that is dense with insight on something we all deal with. On page 33, the authors explore the difference between Burden and Load. “Burdens are so heavy, they can weigh us down. These burdens are like boulders. They can crush us….We need help with the boulders– those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.” By contrast, they go on to analogize “the burden of daily toil”, referring to our everyday obligations as “loads”, meaning “cargo” in Greek. “These loads are like knapsacks. Knapsacks are possible to carry. We are expected to carry our own…” Such great guidance deserves a look below the surface.

A Question of Balance

We can see problems in balance arise in business and in family life with regard to burdens vs loads. Sarah is carrying a burden and is hesitant to reach out for help, while Marsha, a perfectly capable person who is only responsible for a knapsack, enrolls another to carry it for her. Until Sarah realizes that reaching out, informing others, and asking for specific help is both healthy and appropriate, she will live in isolation, which can equate to suffocation. At the same time, she needs to be wary of Marsha’s tactics, which are exactly the type of injustices that can add to her burden. Marsha is abusing her network, while Sarah needs to develop one.

You Will Rise Again

Regardless of our personality type, we will all go through phases when a daypack WILL feel like a boulder, sometimes convincing us that our personal burdens are unique. Having a supportive network is one key to managing such challenges; openness to interventional experts is another. A mentor of mine says that life is like an elevator that stops on all floors, and CIMG1854the goal is to keep the car near the top floors, going to the basement only occasionally. For those days when we get caught in life’s basement, my best practices are:

1. Recognize that this is a short-term challenge. How will this look in a year from now? Even a month from now?

2. Exercise. When you’re struggling, take a walk. Endorphins will kick in and no matter how down you are, you’ll benefit from positive hormones pumping through your body.

3. Be grateful for what you’ve got. Sounds trite during a tough time, but when you really take a step back, don’t you feel incredibly fortunate? Living in a country with relative safety is itself a reason to be grateful. Add in the simplicity of good health and a willing support system, and your standing is put into better perspective.

4. Reach out and call a friend. Women are often reluctant to ask for help. We are supposed to be tough and “suck it up, buttercup”. Calling a cherished friend and telling them that you’re having a tough time is not only a healthy move for you, but it’s an honor for them.

CIMG18535. Be extra-forgiving of yourself. We ALL go through difficult times. You are human, not superhuman. Practice self-compassion.

6. Once in a while, it’s okay to play hooky. In my experience, it’s amazing what a mental health day away from work or family can do to recalibrate your attitude.