A Member of the Overwhelmed Working Mothers Club? Tips to deactivate your membership
Managing the overwhelming feelings of overwhelm is one of the most popular topics I discuss with working women.
Without exception, all of the paid working moms I know (I list "paid," since all moms are working moms) can cite to do lists that include a wide range of activities: preparing for the Board presentation, securing a coveted spot in summer swimming lessons, finishing the budget submission, pricing a new family cell phone plan... and on and on... (By the way, those are just the items that make the list. There are a hundred other small chores that are required just to ensure the household functions). The lists are long and the hours often seem all too short.
For many of my clients, the path to overwhelm is complex and winding, and filled with bruised and busted boundaries. No one sets their sights on burn out, yet it happens to so many of us. Why?
>>No one sets their sights on burn out, yet it happens to so many of us. Why?<<
The answers are complex and partially rooted in the role gender plays in our culture and workplace. I have found that many women set unrealistic goals for near perfect performance at work and at home. Most of my clients score high in areas of "responsibility," which is often paired with a touch (or more) of perfectionism. And almost all of them work for leaders who are outstanding at leveraging (if not exploiting) their hyper-sense of responsibility and sky-high standards.
So how does an overachieving working mother move from a place of overwhelm (and possibly burn out) and return to a place of (more) balance – and dare we say, JOY – in her work and at home? The process does not happen overnight, but it does happen. And, it starts with self-awareness and clarity.
Get Clear on the Costs
It is important to understand the costs of your decisions. Find a quiet place and think about these questions:
Many of us have become addicted to the drive that leads to overwhelm. Working hard usually pays some dividend: money, prestige, awards, promotions, etc. Ask yourself: What benefits am I reaping through my current behaviors? Does working long hours make you feel important, secure, intelligent, or another descriptor?
That said, the drive that has created your success has also created the dreaded overwhelm. Ask: What are the costs of the way I am spending my time? (Our decisions have costs that go well past financial terms. “Costs” here can include any outcome that is unwanted or could be negative in some way.)
What am I not doing for myself, my children and spouse, my coworkers, and others I care about that I would like to do?
Get Clear on What You Can Change – and What Stands Between You and Change
If the costs noted above are causing you some type of psychological, physical or emotional pain, and the pain is high enough, you are probably in a place where you can make changes. For most of us, real change does not occur without a catalyst. Let your feelings of overwhelm be your catalyst to ask the next two questions:
Most of us find it easy to be compassionate with our children, but harder to find that same compassion for ourselves. Imagine your child as an adult. If your child came to you and described their situation as the exact one you are currently living - What advice would you have for your child?
Now, think about that advice for yourself. What is standing between you and the advice you gave your child?
For most of my clients, what is standing between the great advice they gave their child and actually taking the action they described is one powerful emotion: FEAR.
Get Clear on the Steps You Can Take to Push Past Your Fear
I often encourage my clients to take a moment and envision the life they want for themselves if they could have a desired level of balance between work and life: What does the average day look and feel like?
I ask them to close their eyes and sit with the image for a while. By envisioning a desired future, clients can literally see a new destination. This clarity can be helpful as you lean into any fear you may have around changing your current state to achieve your desired end state.
Then, ask yourself:
What would you do if you knew there were no wrong decisions? What steps would you take if you could remove your fear?
What steps can you take today to move closer to your desired destination?
What are the costs to you and others if you don't change your current path?
Finally, Take Your First Baby Steps
For most of us, large, sweeping changes are hard to make and even harder to maintain. The goal at this stage is to identify smaller changes you can make and then maintain before making more changes. Here are two examples that I often suggest:
For two weeks, leave work 15 minutes earlier than your average departure time. If you miss a day, log why you were unable to keep the commitment. At the end of the two weeks, evaluate your progress and check in with yourself around any additional boundaries or time-management techniques you need to explore.
Review your day and find 30 minutes each day that can be reallocated from meeting time and designate it to your work or the “thinking time” so many of us crave. Do not “add” time by coming into work earlier or staying later. Rather review each and every meeting to ensure it is urgent, important, and strategic - and can only be completed/led/attended by you. Other options include: delegating the meeting to a direct report, rescheduling non-urgent meetings, canceling non-important and non-urgent meetings, or completing the meeting through email.
Want to speed up the deactivation of your membership to Club Overwhelm? Contact us today to learn how Bright Blue can help you toss that card away for good.