It Is Easy to Feel Overwhelmed In an Unbalanced World
Two short months ago most of us were coming out of a year-end lull that allowed for holidays and time off from work. Many of us took those weeks to fill ourselves up with family, or rest, or celebration. Then by mid-January most of us were trudging through the start of the school year or ramped up work activities. While it is common to be invigorated by the demands of our lives, it’s also common to be overwhelmed.
If you'd like a really good resource for dealing with these modern-day realities, I'd recommend a fine exploration by a good friend and Master Coach, Karen Van Cleve: End Overwhelm Now: A Proven Process to Regain Control Over Your Life. (If you'd like to listen to my discussion about overwhelm with Coach Karen, click here.)
That said, and assuming you're like many of my coaching clients who are too overwhelmed to read a book about getting free of overwhelm, here a few thoughts I have found to be practical and useful.
Seeing True™ in Action
Since life is inherently unwieldy and uncooperative, let’s talk about self-care.
The nature of life and our lives is dynamism and flux. Nothing we do will ever change that. Some acceptance of this reality can go a long way. And given that we will always need balancing practices, taking care of ourselves allows us to be more effective in and with our lives.
1. Planning and Scheduling Regular Self-care
Recognize that each of us needs opportunities to recharge. And let’s be honest that if we don’t take that need seriously and plan for it, most of us will not be able to find the time or commit ourselves.
Pick an interval for getting away from the demands of your life that seems appropriate for you and your circumstances. Many of my clients find that they need a good break every four to five weeks.
Take the time now to commit time on your calendar for a good break on that interval. Set aside long weekends or make plans to get away from your usual life course. Involve your loved ones or friends in making the commitment since their mutual support increases the likelihood of success. Then maintain the scheduling at least three months forward on a continuing basis.
Why forward looking? Because most all of us will otherwise fill up our calendars and continue to defer attending to our own self-care.
Here are a few examples. One of my clients has made travel commitments with his spouse for all of 2018. Another who has difficulty getting away makes plans with her girlfriends for weekend trips that are nearby including Birmingham, Chattanooga, Greenville and Asheville. Another client who has school-aged children rotates ideas with them so they get to choose weekend adventures that are exciting to them.
The point is not what you do with time off and away, but that you ensure you have time off and away. Planning and calendaring is essential.
2. Prioritizing the Things that Invigorate Us
All of us have some things in our lives that rejuvenate us. One client loves to be immersed in scientific reading. Another is enthralled by climatology. Several are artists. One writes poetry. Some are foodies who either love finding great restaurants or cooking great meals. More than a few are hikers, or bikers, or walkers. Some like to meditate, or love yoga or tai chi.
Every week make sure there is time set aside for what fills you up. One of the best offsets to the demands of our lives is to make sure we engage in the things that rejuvenate us. The invigoration it brings can readily offset aspects of our lives that are overly challenging.
Pick a time of week or day that is likely to be reliably available. I have a client whose staff all telework on Thursdays, so he sets aside two to three hours when he knows there will be few demands on him. Another escapes to her favorite coffee shop at 3 pm every Friday when she can always attend to her writing over a good cup of tea.
Whatever you choose, do everything you can to protect it. Block off the time on electronic calendars. Ask others not to disturb you. Turn off your phone if need be. Invest in yourself by giving yourself precious time and value.
Not long ago I heard a great TED talk about the effects of stress on our well-being. It turns out it is not the stress that is the problem, but our relationship to the stress. Literally our body secretes protective hormones when we are at peace with our own circumstances, even if they are demanding. Self-care is a clear psychological strategy to normalize our experience of our lives. More importantly, it is a subtle but powerful cue to our own inner selves that we can and will take care of ourselves.
The only question that matters now is whether you are willing to commit to a better way for yourself. If you are, you’ll see it in your actions and follow through. If not, be honest with yourself and find someone to assist you.
The best investment any of can make is in ourselves. Then we can use the fruit of that investment for the sake of others and the world.