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Managing Your Many Roles in Life

Dec 29 2021
5 min read
Woman sitting on ground working on laptop with toddler sitting in lap.

Do you sometimes wish there were four of you in order to handle all the roles you take on?

Most of us hold several titles from: boss, to parent, to child, to co-worker, to volunteer, to tutor, to personal chef, to friend. Some weeks can feel more daunting than others — especially when you have a child, friend, spouse, or parent in need. Juggling these demands may come fairly easily to you if you are quite organized, yet that doesn’t mean the hectic, frazzled pace doesn’t take a toll. If you are striving to give equal attention to all of your roles to please everyone, for instance, you will especially feel the strain and it can build up causing chronic anxiety and stress. Experts advise triaging your roles and the needs of others on a daily basis, instead of giving to all of them equally. Letting go of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and setting more boundaries can go a long way to improve your health and wellbeing. The pressure you may be under can not only raise your stress levels, but also your blood pressure, and leave you feeling unsatisfied and defeated — especially if you don’t think you’re doing anything well. Instead of going through the motions to get everything done, really think about how you’re able to fully participate in your roles. For example, accept that making time for your friend means that errands can wait for another day, just as driving your daughter to a dance class may mean needing to grab takeout for dinner — and that’s just fine.

Accept what you can handle. Ask for help when necessary. Say no sometimes to others and yes to yourself. Experts advise finding ways to fill your own cup when stretched too thin. Joining a gym, taking a yoga class, going for a walk, are all important to your health and state of mind. Remember, it is not selfish to take care of yourself, too. As you start to prioritize and manage your roles, keep these four things in mind:

Speak Up

Being open with others about what you can and cannot handle takes some of the pressure off. If your mother isn’t doing well and needs most of your attention in the coming weeks, for instance, explain that to your family, friends, and co-workers. Saying it out loud helps to lower others’ expectations of you, and also to allow you to ask for assistance, if necessary. Perhaps a spouse, or child can help with dinner? Maybe a friend can pick up a child from school? Ask for the support that you need.

Be Present

Because we do so much in many of our roles, we often miss the substance of what we’re doing. If you enjoy the time you have in the car with your kids, for example, make the most of it. Talk to them, listen to them, sing with them. If you’re focused on where else you need to be, you’re not really savoring that moment you love about being a parent. Be fully present in that role and you will enjoy it more, as you savor the closeness you are creating.

Respect Your Limits

When you’re doing your best, know that that is good enough — even if you sense that others may expect more from you. In some cases, people might feel disappointed that you’re unable to give them the attention you normally do. When we accept our limitations, other people’s expectations aren’t as powerful, however. And, we often see some people in our lives who drain us, even when they know how stretched thin we are. Be kind to yourself and don’t always be available, so you can be there for yourself.

Make Time for You

Don’t forget about the most important role you play in life: being you. We really focus too much on all the things we need to be and do for others, but it’s important to recognize what we need and put our energy there too. Cook yourself your favorite meal, try the pottery class you’ve been curious about, sign up for that 5K you wanted to do, incorporate a weekly fitness routine, even 20 minutes a day at home is enough to make a big difference in how you feel. Making time for you is essential, not selfish. When you are healthy and vibrant and happy, you give a gift to everyone you encounter, with your additional energy and positive focus.