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Can Too Many Good Things Lead to Squirrely Mental Health?

A parent seeks balance in May maddness

Julie K. Hersh
Source: Julie K. Hersh

Every May feels like this squirrel I found last week, stretched in acrobatic peril on my “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. The chant starts in late April as I tell myself You just have to make it through X. “X” is usually date driven: end of school, graduation, a wedding, a party or announcement. This May, three milestone events culminated in the same week: my daughter’s graduation from high school, a major announcement of a project with UTSW that has been five years in the making, and appointment of a new Managing Director for the Dallas Theater Center (DTC). Timing forced all of this good stuff into last week, for a life-by-fire-hose experience. I meditated, tried to pace myself and be in the moment. But somehow amidst this celebration, I felt decidedly squirrely. Strung out. Wondering if the next “X” would push me over the edge.

Luckily, it didn’t. But living through this May experience for the umpteenth time makes me realize that my mental health hinges on my ability to manage the good things in my life as well as the bad. I did a few things differently this May, and perhaps that helped. I ran with my friends instead of retreating to my typical May-mode solitary running. My pals at the Cooper Aerobics Center counseled me on the art of saying “no.” I watched my sleep religiously - making sure I got enough. My husband insisted I stay home this weekend instead of joining him for his Princeton reunion. I’m giving myself permission to spend time alone, read a book, stop producing (right after I publish this blog;)).

ken hersh
Source: ken hersh

Most of us assume that mental illness happens when bad things happen. Surely negative events are contributors, but too much “good” stress can wear a person out too. Some stress strengthens us, but excessive stress leaves us depleted for the inevitable upsets that life brings. My challenge lies in determining the difference between some and excessive.

For me the best tonic for May is feeding my quiet side. To allow my brain to drift from the treadmill of tasks to notice something new or unexpected. To laugh. To write. To see my life’s mirror in a tenacious squirrel.

For everyone hurtling toward their final Xs of May, I wish you a minute here and there to pause, breathe and find those moments. If not, hang in there, June is just three days away.

For more information about Julie K Hersh or Struck by Living, check out the Struck by Living website.

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