I saw a post on Instagram the other day that struck a chord. A graphic of a computer with 5 open tabs (Politics, Covid, Climate, Work, Family) read: “Too Many Tabs Opened. Take Time For Your Mental Health.”
I have 8 tabs open on my computer and 33 tabs open on my phone.
Articles on parenting I started to read but had to stop because the little one woke up. Craft ideas, toy and book suggestions, nature centers – all information that a part of me thinks I still need to read to help keep my toddler entertained and make my life easier. An article about sleep schedules to try to understand why our little one still isn’t sleeping well at 15 months old. A video on how to remove water spots from granite that I still haven’t watched. An article about 5 new local craft breweries that I saved to check out before Covid happened.
When I see these tabs, I’m often hit with feelings of anxiety.
This sometimes turns to disappointment in myself and sometimes into frustration and anger for not using my time better. And while I may have always been the ‘way too many items on my to-do list’ kind of person, 2020 has broken me in a way that other years haven’t.
A lot has happened this year. And while we’ve been home more than usual and could theoretically get more accomplished – reading those articles and books, hanging up that print in the laundry room, planning more craft projects – it feels like we’re more distracted than usual.
My brain was full of ideas, and instead of making progress, nothing was getting done.
This misconception that we’d be able to accomplish more made me dig myself into this hole of way too many tabs. Even though I very well know that I cannot do it all, for some reason, my brain seems to forget this every once and a while, and I begin to bite off more than I can chew.
I’m still learning that even though my mind tells me that I should accomplish these things, I am not a failure when I do not. I’m still learning that simplifying what I’d like to accomplish is more realistic. This is especially true when naps don’t happen, and nothing extra gets accomplished that day.
So, I started this week with a new mentality, and I truly hope to make it stick. It’s simple: I’m taking it one day and one task at a time.
My first goal was to order some knobs for our kitchen cabinets. I had a tab open on my phone from Lowe’s for so long that the items I added to my cart were no longer there. So, I started over and finished the task. And it felt so good.
I still have way too many tabs open – even though I just closed two more. I still have multiple to-do lists lying around the house. I know I’ll fall back into my old habits often, but I’m more self-aware. Even the smallest bit of progress is still progress.
Winter has just begun, the months ahead may be tough, and it’s time to start taking better care of myself. I read about the importance of self-care and prioritizing mental health often enough and share this message with others, but I need to remember this myself. I must focus on myself more and listen to my body when it’s telling me to stop.
This advice is as much for me as it is for all of us: when you feel your head starting to spin because you have too much on your plate, slow it down. Try to narrow your focus. Close a tab or two. You can’t be productive if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Let’s normalize the idea that taking care of yourself is productive.