Monday, 19 November 2012

My ideal week - focusing on what really matters

I am recovering from burn out and depression.

I never thought it would happen to me.

Sure, I worked a little to much, but I had to since my company had let 6 people out of 8 in our group go, hadn't I? Doesn't everyone work a little too much?

Sure, I wasn't getting enough sleep. Ever.

Sure, I hadn't actually had any proper exercise since practising for and running the half marathon. A year ago.

And how can life in a new step family with four boys aged 8-19 be anything but a handful?

Things add up and it took me a few years to get to the point when my body and brain just stopped working. One strange Tuesday in August last year everything came to a full stop. I couldn't move, I couldn't think, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't decide on anything. I was very good at feeling immensly sad and anxious, though. And my heart was racing all the time.

My doctor looked at me and sent me home. No work (Yes, Maria. That means not reading your email or answering your work phone. No, Maria. You can't work if you "feel like it"...). He told my husband not to expect any household work from me and not to demand my participation in anything. For now.

My husband IS a wonderful man and really did do EVERYTHING at home for a long time. He also rearranged his work so he could work from home a lot more and keep me company and make sure I ate properly every day and got out of the house for a little walk. At the time he had broken his foot and was jumping around on crutches, too... Can you believe it?

Slowly, I've regained a lot of my health and energy. Happiness, creativity and playfulness are back. Yay! But I have to be extremely careful not to overdo things and first of all spend my energy on things that help me get better. This very hard. I'm so used to thinking in terms of duties and responsibilities, that this whole concept of focusing on my own wellbeing is a little provoking even to me.

A while ago I read an article on how to design your ideal week in order to control your time and make sure you spend your time where it matters most. I decided to use this idea and marry it to the layout of happiness wheels. I sat down and had a little workshop with myself, and picked out those ingredients of my life that help me recover and stay balanced. And made a realistic decision based on my energy levels and health at this time. Especially those I feel bad about not doing more so that I could make an agreement with myself that IT'S OK if I don't cook more than twice a week, or drop off my son at school. It's actually ok if I don't do it at all, but this helps when I've already done it twice but think I should do it more... :-)

  • Sleep - I need 7-8 hours every night
  • Yoga - once a week 
  • Friends - face to face meetings once a week
  • Work - 20 hours a week
  • Cook dinner - twice a week
  • Pick up or leave my son in school - 3 times a week
  • Time outdoors  - every day
  • Quiet mornings - every day

I keep sheets like these in my filofax Roxy, and I review it every day. I fill in a section if I have gone to yoga today, or cooked, or slept more than 7hrs etc. If I notice in the middle of the week that I've not slept properly I try to make it possible for me to go to bed earlier or reschedule an appointment so that I can sleep longer in the morning. Using this for a month has made it really clear that I simply don't sleep enough. I actually thought I did!

I've decided to keep it like this for a another month or two, then I will have another workshop with myself!

How do you navigate to keep a straight course to reach your life goals?

This picture is from one of the walks last fall


  1. so first of all I want to say "thank your for beeing that honest with your burnout". In the beginning of January I had "something similliar" but more some kind of depression. It was gone for a while, but nowadays it´s knocking on my door from time to time. I have to take care of me a lot more.

    And I really like your "the ideal Week" chart. I always was trying to do a timetable like I did at school - a vertical Week per Page overview - but there is too much spontaneousy (?) in my life to keep track of it on a regular basis.
    I think your chart would work for me as well. Mind if I "borrow" it? :)

    I wish you to get well soon.

  2. Of course, use it! :-) Thanks also for your kind words. Stay healthy!