I am supposed to….
- have a clean house
- feed my family a home-cooked, well-balanced meal
- have the laundry washed
- help my kids with their homework
- design and implement solutions for my clients
- find time to exercise
- create a spiritual discipline
- volunteer in my community
- complete my own studies
- maintain family relationships and friendships
- shuffle the right kids to the right activities with the right gear
Does your *should have’s* and “supposed to’s* ever get the better of you? That’s exactly the way I felt earlier this month. Overwhelmed.
Your list may look different than mine, but regardless of your age and stage, all of us seem to have (at least) a few days in a month that leave us feeling as if we are running an impossible race.
When it happened to me, I realized I had two choices. I could continue doing the same things and likely spiral downward in negative thinking and feeling a lot of shame about not having it all together. Or, I could stop and try to change tracks.
Having experienced the first option before, I thought of what my many coaching clients have taught me over the years and I chose the second path. (Coaching Secret: coaches learn just as much during a client-coach partnership as the client.)
So how did I put a stop to the train running out of control that was my life at the time?
- Listen to my body. Our bodies know a lot more than we give them credit for. Sometimes are bodies have figured out we are under stress before our minds have pieced the puzzle together. I took an inventory – stress in my back (check), tension in my shoulders (check) and an upset stomach (yep, that too). Definitely under stress. So that day, I stopped the activities I was forcing. I went for a short walk. I made sure dinner that night was healthy (yet easy to prepare). I drank water and I went to bed early.
- Return to my values. I play different roles in my life. Much like you, they are all important to me. But, they don’t have to be the most important all of the time. I reminded myself that my to do list will never really be done. There will always be carryover whether I am talking about the next work project, student assignment or never-ending piles of laundry. Other experiences and opportunities come only once in a while. The moments I can’t back – talking to my kids while driving them to a sporting event, helping them with their homework, even taking a little time each day to take care of myself – are the ones I can’t give up on. With this in mind, I cut my to do list in half and it was much easier to decide what I was supposed to be able to do vs. what really required my time and energy in the moment.
- Back to basics. I was having a busy week and I couldn’t tell if this was going to last a couple of days or a couple of months. If I was running a marathon, I recognized that I needed to ensure I was on solid footing. Focusing too much on work or family or self at the expense of the other was not going to be the right approach (this time). I had to keep each area of my life moving forward. Ironically, I chose to do so by relaxing my expectations of myself. I asked myself “if 100% is what I would ideally like to achieve, what does 75% look like?” Whether it was laundry, exercising, taking care of the house or volunteering, this was just going to have to be good enough for now. 75% was a lot better than nothing and created positive feelings about achieving it.
So, how did it all work out? It turned out my bottleneck only lasted a few days. But, I managed to get through it with a lot less stress to myself and negative impact to those I live and work with.
We are heading into November; a month that is typically a busy one for most of us. When you hit a stumbling block, I hope you will consider these strategies. And, if you want to talk, I’m here to listen... and learn.