I am seeing a lot of overwhelm amongst my clients and rooms of women that I am speaking to at the moment. Perhaps it's the time of year, and the half way point is weighing on people. Perhaps you may be in need of a holiday, a mini break, some…
Are you pushing too hard? (the inside story…)
Here we are in a new week. Fresh mornings, new to-do lists, and potentially mixed emotions with what you have ahead. I feel you. I am arguably busier than I have ever been, all with things I am excited about, but lots of it nonetheless.
I feel like I usually have a good balance between my work which I am exceptionally passionate about, and my life which I love. I spend good quality time with my family and friends, prioritise my kid over absolutely everything else, and make plenty of time for rest, relaxation and restoration.
But some of that has kind of gone out the window lately. Many of you know I am on book deadline. Two weeks to go to be exact, before it heads off to the copy editor and then into the production process. It’s terribly exciting, and I can’t wait for this baby to be out in the world in July (more on that to come, *squeal*).
But add in a book you have been working on for months, together with the launch of a new start up, a thriving business, and coming back into PhD land with a new supervisor and revised dissertation outline, and things have gotten a little off balance. Seeing as you know how I like to keep it real, I gotta fess up and say that to be honest, it’s all been feeling like I’ve been a little bat shit crazy lately. Yep, not too proud to call it exactly what it is.
Coming out of the last few weeks with a full slate of my incredible private strategy and coaching clients, wonderful speaking gigs, and trying to fit slots of book writing in between, I started to feel a little rundown. It can happen pretty quickly. For the past few months I have been up at dawn, swimming in the ocean for an hour each morning, working through a full day into the early evening, and feeling really healthy and vibrant. A few weeks ago things intensified some more, with five nights out at functions (exceptionally rare for me) and clients and events on every day. Still though, I was feeling good. But then a week or so ago, I started to feel a little bit of tightness creeping in. Like I was pushing too hard to meet the deadlines of all the things I had signed myself up for. By the time I got to last Thursday, I knew the air had all but left my tires.
Right there, I had a choice. Push on, which is what I did for more than a decade working in big jobs with even bigger deadlines. Or honor myself and down tools. Pushing on often feels easier. Drive on through the tiredness, ignore the bug that I knew was brewing up a storm in my body, and just keep going. But having learnt a thing or two about exhaustion and burn out, as well as boundaries and self care, I chose not to do that. I chose to stop. And amongst the usual running around after a busy teenager between physio appointments, sport and school runs, I kind of just shut the rest down as much as I could.
So what did I do this past weekend when I didn’t work on the book or my business – the first weekend I can remember in about four months where that was the case? It was all about self care, and not at all about working. I went to my kids rugby; had a massage; watched a bunch of West Wing episodes; slept in on Sunday morning (the benefit of having a teenager, they never get up before you do); made soup; cooked healthy meals; drank lots of fresh ginger tea; planted new mint and basil plants in my garden; watched two movies (the final Hunger Games and the old Julie & Julia); cleaned my desk and filed a lot of papers whilst listening to Sounds True podcasts; and lay in bed reading before an early night.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have complete moments of panic knowing that I had these days blocked to write the final chapter of my book, and start editing the other 60,000 words that are due in 10 days. I did feel moments of anxiety over that. But I also knew that I just had nothing left to give and that I needed to recharge as much as I could before this last run to the end.
You often get to that point on a project. You may relate. It could be something big at work, like a new strategy or client pitch. It could be a house renovation, a big move, caring someone through a tough time or making a complete career change. You get to that point, especially if you get totally run down or sick, where you just need to say enough. It can wait. And even if it can’t wait, it will just have too, until you’re ready to pick it up again.
I’ll be picking it all up again today. Would I like a week to hide under the covers? Sure I would. Do I have that luxury? Nope. So wheels up, to do lists will get done and book pages will be written, clients will be loved and duties will be carried out. But I know I have so much more to give than I would have had if I’d just driven and pushed through all weekend. My system feels more rested, and so does my mind. And sitting here about to post this on Monday morning, I am actually pretty fired up about my writing and the clients I get to serve this week – a complete turn around from how I felt on Friday.
So my questions for you this week are these; How hard are you pushing right now? How are you feeling with the work you are doing, the projects you have on and the commitments you have said yes to? Where might you be able to create some space for yourself if you feel you need it? What might you do in that space to restore yourself?
I’ll leave you with this thought, that I always say to my clients and myself, and that has been weighing on my mind a lot lately as I think and plan forward and look at how I can create more space for myself: You are busy with what you said yes too. If that feels good, energising and full of joy, then awesome. Onward you go. If it doesn’t, if your diary fills you with dread and gloom and feelings of anxiety, then take some time to ponder the questions above, and this statement, and see where you might need to make a change.
We need to change the conversation about how we work, how we live and how we look after ourselves. We have to be real and true enough to acknowledge when the going is tough, know that we can stop when we need to, and that it doesn’t make us weak or less capable. And most importantly, we need to know that it’s ok to talk about it and stop pretending we are all so perfect and that our life looks like an Instagram photo. It doesn’t. So honor yourself, where you’re at and the journey that you’re on. And let that be enough.
Until next time,
You’ve got this.