A while ago I wrote a post called Filling Our Plates. I talked about how our days were like a dinner plate. We can either balance them with a healthy portion of tasks, activities and work, or we can overload them so we struggle to get through everything. Recently I had to take a good look at my own plate, as I wanted to add something to it. The question I needed to ask myself was, can I keep it balanced or is it going to start to overflow?
If you are one of my newsletter subscribers or follow me on Instagram, you will have heard me talk about our American Bulldog, McCaw, and how over the past nine months he has had two operations to remove cancerous growths. This, plus having recently watched the video series ‘The Truth About Pet Cancer’, has sparked an ever-growing interest in animal nutrition. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen making health treats and meals for our dogs, which has also lead me to adopting the Hashtag #theyeatbetterthanwedo.
A little over six months ago I came across a course in Animal Nutrition run by the Holistic Animal Therapy Organisation here in Australia. Not only was I interested in this particular course, but it is also a pre-requisite for a Diploma in Holistic Animal Therapy, which sounds right up my ally! Three weeks ago I finally enrolled in the course. The reason it took me so long to sign up is because I wanted to make sure I could add it to my plate, without it causing my plate to overbalance and come crashing to the ground.
The course is run online over a twelve-month period. The information I received stated you could complete it easily within this time if you could dedicate four hours to study a week. It would have been easy to think that four hours isn’t a lot and of course I could fit it in! I actually think this is how we get ourselves into trouble. We think, ‘it’s only one extra school activity a week for the kids’, or ‘it’s only one extra project at work they want me to work on’. But that one extra thing can cause your plate to go from full (but manageable) to overflowing (and non-manageable). We might manage to hold everything together for a while, but eventually our life slowly starts to feel unbalanced. This can then lead to feelings of guilt, resentment, and stress and overwhelm.
So I knew I had to think long and hard before signing up for the course. While I knew it was something I definitely wanted to do, the question was whether the timing was right.
The first thing I did was to sit down and make a list the things I had on my plate already. I had my clinical work as a physiotherapist, I had my social media work for the physiotherapy clinic I work for, I had my work as a Stories Editor for Creative Countryside and I had this fortnightly blog and newsletter. Once again it would have been easy to look at this list and think it was all I needed to take into account. But the reality is it’s the ‘work’ I do outside of my actual work that consumes a significant part of my time. Everyday and mundane tasks like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Not to mention those four dogs of mine which need up to three hours of exercise a day between them! I also had to consider that my fiancé is away more than he is home at the moment, so there is going to be times when I need to do things he normally takes care of (like organise firewood, take the rubbish to the tip and water ALL the trees we planted a few months ago). All these things are little tasks, but when added together take up a huge amount of time out of one’s day. Oh … and then there’s sleep!
The second thing I did was to be more conscious of how I was spending my time. If you know me well you will know I am already extremely organised and efficient (I mean who doesn’t love routines!), but I did notice there were a few things that had crept in I could eliminate. Like popping into our local town on a Friday morning to pick up all the supplies we needed for the weekend. I realized that if I picked these things up during the week, then it would give me an extra hour on a Friday. And let’s be honest, we can all spend less time on social media!
The third thing I did was talk to my fiancé. I knew if I was going to fully immerse myself in this course then I was going to have to spend some time studying on the weekend. As I said the shaven-headed, tattooed builder is away more than he is home at the moment, and he’s worked the last four weekends. But this isn’t normal, and I wanted to make sure I could spend at least a couple of hours studying on a Saturday or Sunday without it interfering with ‘our time’. As it happens he was fine with it. In fact I think his exact words were ‘sweet, I will just take the dogs hunting for the day so you can study as much as you like’. Any excuse!
And lastly, if I was going to commit to studying for the next year, I needed to make sure there was at least one thing I could let go of if it all started to feel overwhelming. Unfortunately I can’t stop working (as much as there are many days I would like to!), the dogs will always need walking and I do need to eat. So those things will always need to stay on my plate. But there are things that, even though I don’t want to, I can take off if I need to. And that was the real comfort when signing up for the course.
So far, with a few tweaks to my routines here and there, I am managing to keep my plate nicely balanced (despite the course being a lot harder than it was going to be!). I am really glad though I took the time to think before jumping. To ask myself the questions above, to look at where I could make changes in my routines, and to consider all portions of my plate.
Because I truly believe this is where we run into trouble. When we think an extra hour, two or four won’t make a difference. When we think it’s only one more thing. Or even that adding an extra plate won’t hurt. But it takes a lot to keep a plate spinning in complete balance. And that one hour, one more thing or one more plate could be all it takes to send it all crashing to the ground.