Turtle Time

“I know that each of us has much to do. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the tasks we face. But if we keep our priorities in order, we can accomplish all that we should. We can endure to the end regardless of temptations, problems, and challenges.” -Joseph B. Wirthlin

I have a strategy that I’m guessing you already do, even if you don’t realize it. I affectionately refer to it as “turtle time.” Turtles instinctively retreat to their shell when predators are near. Last week, I talked about keeping your focus, and this concept is another way to keep yourself on track. Allow me to explain.

At times, we can all benefit from pulling into our shell. When things are too busy, hectic, or stressful, or a mood episode is approaching, we need to prioritize our safety and well-being. Isn’t it wise to “turtle up”, and consider a mild retreat in order to reassess, refocus, and reorganize? The retreat can be physical, emotional, or intellectual, but it’s a break to care for our minds, bodies, and spirits. I realize we can’t stay that way all the time, but if we temporarily let some things go to keep ourselves well, I’m all for it. In fact, I think it’s downright healthy.

If you go to the ER with a broken arm, you can safely assume you’ll be there for hours, right? It’s not because the staff aren’t skilled, or because they’re not moving quickly, but simply because they triage. Emergency rooms prioritize their patients based on severity of symptoms. If your broken arm is being weighed against a heart attack and motorcycle accident, you’ll wait every time. The ER deals with the most serious first, and when life is throwing a lot at us at once, we can adopt the same strategy. Pull a bit into the shell when you need to attend to the most pressing things first. Reassess. Refocus. Reorganize. Decide what you’ll deal with now, and what can wait. Do some triaging, like you’re running your own personal emergency room. In a way, sometimes we are!

Sometimes, the most pressing thing is getting out of bed. Sometimes, it’s getting to work or returning a phone call, or paying a bill. Sometimes, it’s making sure we exercise or do another healthy coping skill to maintain our mood and well-being. Sometimes, the most important, most pressing thing we can do is lower our expectations and let go. We can let go of what is happening, what we’re worried about, what our expectations might be, and our judgment of how we think we’re doing. Sometimes, it’s okay to pull into the shell for a bit and give ourselves a much needed reprieve. Turtle time is a conscious choice to put some things down in an effort to preserve our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When we are ready, we will pick them up again and move forward.

A word about what I think “turtle time” isn’t. It is not about hiding out long term. It’s not about being in a depressive episode and staying in bed all day-although it can be very, very hard or impossible to get out of bed. It’s not withdrawing from your support people and things. It’s not because you don’t want to deal with things for an extended period. It’s not so you don’t have to confront the people, situations, or circumstances that life has dealt you or you have helped to create. Turtle time is not because you can’t do it, because we both know that you can.

Remember the other side-once the turtle comes back out, it travels onward. Once the imminent threat is removed, they come out, and move on. Sure, they move pretty slowly, but I sincerely doubt the turtle minds.

In fact, from the turtle’s perspective, it is exactly the right pace. And I’m willing to bet we’re all moving at exactly the right pace.

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