This book, written over a thousand years ago, by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is a wonderful touchstone for when things get a bit too much. It is a proto self-help book, but unlike modern self-help which is written for an audience, and aims to be instructive, this text was written by Marcus Aurelius privately, for no-one else's eyes. These are his notes to himself, reminders of how to keep going, reminders of things he's learnt along the way. What I love about it is that as you read through the book (which was written over a span of about 20 years) you can see him grappling with the same issues over and over. This gives me hope. I am often impatient with myself about my own short-comings, the things I would like to change or do differently. But, if the ruler of a vast empire, with massively more responsibility and pressure on him than I will ever face, struggled, then I think I can give myself a break every now and then! One of my favourite passages, one which at this time of year* I completely identify with, regards how to get out of bed and do the work you were meant to do:
"At day's first light have in readiness, against disinclination to leave your bed, the thought that 'I am rising for the work of man'. Must I grumble at setting out to do what I was born for, and for the sake of which I have been brought into the world? Is this the purpose of my creation, to lie here under the blankets and keep myself warm? 'Ah, but it is a great deal more pleasant!' Was it for pleasure, then, that you were born, and not for work, not for effort? Look at the plants, the sparrows, ants, spiders, bees, all busy at their own tasks, each doing his part towards a coherent world-order; and will you refuse man's share of the work, instead of being prompt to carry out Nature's bidding? 'Yes, but one must have some repose as well.' Granted; but repose has its limits set by nature, in the same way as food and drink have; and you overstep these limits, you go beyond the point of sufficiency; while on the other hand, when action is in question, you stop short of what you could achieve."
*Marcus Aurelius' Meditations was my book choice for February 2016