Where Are Your Boundaries? 8 Ways to Reduce Overwhelm.

This week is Work/Life Balance Week 2019. Companies may be offering yoga classes or suggesting other ways in which to look after our well being. I love a yoga class, but when it comes for work/life balance, we also need to take personal responsibility to consider where our boundaries lie.

When I speak to busy women they are often struggling with overwhelm. We play so many roles, which carry so many responsibilities and with that a concept of perfection. Over the last few weeks I have had many conversations with exhausted women who feel burnt out because they haven’t put boundaries in place- whether that’s at home, at work, or in relationships. We start to feel resentful when we feel that we’re doing too much or that people are taking advantage of us. But actually, we have a responsibility to create and communicate reasonable boundaries.

When we get overwhelmed we lose the ability to think clearly. We start fire fighting or just focusing on survival. 

We also procrastinate because there is so much to do and we literally don’t know where to start.  

And it’s no surprise that we feel resentful. Society continues to exert a lot of pressure on women from an early age to achieve perfection- from how we look; how we achieve at school and how we parent. 

As children we gained approval from adults through showing certain behaviours: To hurry up; to be good; to be a people pleaser. And this continues to drive our behaviour as adults, until we are aware of them. 

Although women’s participation in the workforce is increasing we continue to carry a disproportionate responsibility for both domestic chores and childcare, not to mention single parent families constituting nearly a quarter of families, in which financial and domestic responsibility may fall solely on the shoulders of one person. 

So it’s very easy to fall into overwhelm and this is often the point at which people come to coaching. They have worked hard to achieve where they are in their career but sometimes find that other keys areas suffer: these are generally relationships with their children, partner or friendships. Alternatively, women manage to keep all the balls in the air from an external perspective but there is a health cost: lack of sleep, exercise, anxiety or dependance on food, caffeine or alcohol to get through. 

So when we are feeling overwhelmed how do we put boundaries in place? 

1 Identify Your Roles and Responsibilities 

Write down all of your roles and the responsibilities associated with each role. Where are you spending your time? What are you ready to let go of? 

2 Track Your Time

Track your time to see where you are spending it. Time management guru Laura Vandekam advocates tracking our time to find out where it is going. This is hugely powerful as we can only measure what we can measure and time, in my opinion, is our most precious resource. See my review of Vandekam’s I know How She Does It here.

3 Identify Your Priorities

Set 3 key priorities- Your Most Important Tasks at the beginning of each day and focus on completing them. 

4 Use the 80/20 Rule

Use the 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle which states that 80% of results come from 20% of people or tasks. Which 20% of the tasks you do are actually the most important? And of all the people in your life, who are in the top 20% and what can you do to really nurture those relationships? 

5 Delegate 

Our kids empty the dishwasher and we we frequently find random items in random places. My eldest has to help with his laundry so when it comes off the lines it’s jumbled, chaotic and has clothes pegs still attached. The kids love to bake or make pancakes and the washing up afterwards is often less than perfect. But I’ll take the imperfection anytime- they are learning to be independent. They don’t need me to do everything. 

The same may apply at work- sometimes you want to be in every meeting or you feel that you have to be responsible for everything- but you are part of a team. You don’t have to do everything. 

6 Lower your standards 

When I went back to work after my second child I knew I couldn’t work or parent at 100% and stay sane. My husband was working as a junior doctor and juggling weekend, night shifts and professional exams and life was full on with two tiny active boys. So I made a promise to myself that I would lower my standards in all areas to 70% and my mantra was Good is good enough. Guess what? No one noticed and I just about stayed sane.  

7 Practice saying NO

Our instinct is to say yes because we want to make people happy or prove that we can do it all. But ultimately a lack of boundaries leads to burn out. So learn to say no, without explanation or apology OR if it’s easier find some ways to cushion the effect of no: Can I get back to you? or I’d love to but…

8 Get control of the tech

This is where we really struggle with boundaries. Our devices are always at hand and the temptation to respond immediately is always there. But we know screens affect our sleep. Do yourself a huge favour and get them out of the bedroom. Create your boundaries around email and work calls. We all need some downtime. 

We are each responsible for protecting our time and energy. No one else will do that for us. Which area of your life needs better boundaries? Which of these tools will you start with? Let us know in the comments below. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and know it’s time to make a change, don’t continue to flounder. Get in touch by booking a free discovery call here



			

Positive Mental Health

This week the mental health charity MIND have published the results of their research which shows that half of all employees have suffered with poor mental health and half of those who have suffered with stress, anxiety and low mood are reluctant to discuss it with their employers.

There is still stigma around mental health, particularly in the work place. We fear speaking out and being judged. According to the report, fear, shame and job insecurity are the reasons employees are reluctant to speak out.

In his brilliant book The Whole Brain Child– Daniel Siegal provides an image of mental health as a river: on one bank there is chaos and on the other rigidity. If we veer too close to one bank our mental health is put at risk. This image appeals to me as it suggests that we can take responsibility for creating positive mental health and start to recognise areas in which we are drawn towards the two extremes of chaos and rigidity.

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Image taken from Daniel Siegal The Whole Brain Child

In September and October I’ll be delivering Talk to Your Teen to parents of children and teens about the stigma around mental health and how we can use coaching tools and techniques to improve communication with our children. Boys are particularly vulnerable as they are still consciously and subconsciously given messages such as ‘Big boys don’t cry’, ‘Man up’ etc which mean that when they have a problem it’s very difficult to talk about it. Teach your children it’s ok to express emotion- both positive and negative. Help them to recognise their emotions by naming them. Boys in particular tend to have a very limited range of vocabulary to describe emotions which can limit their self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Talk about your feelings, emotions and mistakes and foster a resilient mindset by encouraging the belief: Mistakes make me stronger. 

We are beginning to realise that we need to look after our mental health in the same way we do our physical health. I like to think of well-being as being like a table with 4 legs. Each of those legs is a supporting pillar. For me those four pillars are:

  • Sleep- we can’t be resilient without sleep. It underpins everything else. See Arianna Huffington’s Thrive and Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep here
  • Exercise outdoors- the release of dopamine, seratonin and endorphins is increased when we exercise outside and we get a dose of Vitamin D which reduces depression.
  • Meditation- I’m a longstanding fan of Headspace. I’ve also heard great things about Calm and a new addition to my morning routine is Tony Robbins’ priming exercise which incorporates gratitude and visualisation too. 
  • Connection- we live in a hyper connected world- which is amazing but sometimes we get overwhelmed and miss the real face to face time with loved ones which we need for our emotional  wellbeing.

The added bonus of course is that many of these things support our physical health!

So what do you need to support your mental health? Is it something you need to give more of your attention?

NB Coaching is not suitable for those suffering with mental health issues. This requires advice from medical professionals who may direct you to other forms of support.