Working in student support at a University means that almost every day I meet students who need a bit of help. This can range from people feeling a bit homesick to people right at the very tip of the mental health crisis that everyone is talking about. But one of the most common things I talk about with students is feeling overwhelmed – people who have signed up to too many societies, too many commitments, and who are now struggling to balance these and getting into a guilt spiral at not being perfect. There is of course a simple solution to this, I say. Let’s make a list and work out what commitments you can drop.
I guess it’s time to practice what I preach.
Since announcing earlier this year that I was planning to cycle across America I’ve been feeling like I’m keeping too many plates spinning. Work has been manic and sometimes stressful (but good with superb colleagues), and outside of that I’ve had weekly improv sessions, monthly sessions with my other improv group in Manchester, trustee meetings with the Kirkgate Centre, additional meetings to set up a new charity to take on a long term lease with the building, the occasional training run… And just once in a blue moon I get a chance to spend time with my wife or do a few chores around the house. Like the students I see I’ve been feeling overwhelmed whilst also feeling guilty for not doing everything as well as I’d like. A year ago I was re-starting employment and on the road to recovery after the worst days of my depressive episode. During that I wrote about the guilt cycles I got myself into, and the need to look after myself. So today I stepped back from one of my biggest commitments.
When we moved to Shipley in 2015 I almost immediately joined a local improv group – scarcely believing there was one on my doorstep. given my previous experience I quite quickly started to help run sessions and after 18 months I started to co-ordinate the group and run all of the sessions. We began to do monthly shows and develop a local audience. I’ve now been a member of the group for longer than I was a member of Bangor Comedy. I’ve made some great friends but I feel that the time has come to step back, focus on other projects, and give other people an opportunity to lead the group.
I already feel guilty – stepping back from something you are committed to is hard. I already wonder if this is the right thing – walking home after talking with the group I felt really down. It’s been a really hard decision to make, and I’m sure I will second guess myself for weeks. I’m sure I’ll continue to feel guilty that I can’t be the perfect human being I want to be. But the only constant is change, and I’m sure the lovely people in the group will continue to thrive without me.
So – self-care isn’t always easy. But it is important to look after yourself.