Overwhelmed?

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?  

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.