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I’m Overwhelmed and Overcommitted – Help! | Ask Lisa

Having the Tough Conversations

with Lisa Greene, LPC, CACII

“Dear Lisa,

I don’t know if I can keep up this pace for another year.

I spend most of my day working and managing the household, then squeeze in a side project before either doing some “life admin”, responding to about 1/10th of the messages I’ve gotten across 5+ inboxes, and MAYBE zoning out with TV if I’m lucky…

I feel like I don’t have enough time or energy for my family, my job, hobbies and volunteering, or certainly my own health. I don’t know what to give up, and I don’t know how. I feel like I’m careening toward collapse and I’m supposed to be starting the year with fresh excitement?? HELP!”

Sincerely, New Year/Old Me

Lisa says:

Dear New Year/Old Me,

This sounds like a question over half of the world is asking right now. Women in particular are known to overwork themselves, and this is often exacerbated by working remotely.

It is easy to take on extra assignments and overextend ourselves with the genuine goal of being a “perfect” team member, parent, advocate, friend, or _____ fill in the blank. But when you add up all the responsibilities and expectations across all areas of life… the results can be daunting. 

Women are often taught to be “superwomen,” men to be “stoic machines,” and all of us to focus on external rewards rather than internal peace. In staying in this role of unflinching superhero, it can be easy to put yourself last. This often leads to feelings of increased stress, anxiety and fatigue.

No wonder it feels as if there need to be more hours in a day to fulfill all required roles. Likely with what’s on your plate now, there actually would. You will have to identify what “extra” work you have been signing up for, and consider letting some of it go.  

In focusing on the “I” work that is necessary for growth and emotional health, there have to be boundaries and balance. As the well-known saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Or, I’d add, one that is just half-full. Our world tells us to “just keep moving,” but for the sake of mental health and balance, at some point you have to just stop.  

Stop and reevaluate what is most important. Really: what is most important?

I hope you said yourself, because without taking care of you, nothing else really matters. With that in mind, prioritize what has to be done and continue until you finish. Often when feeling overwhelmed it is easy to start and stop projects, thus leading to further feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. NO is a powerful word that you can learn to use to save yourself from yourself.

I often look at balance in life like the spokes of a wheel: work, home, community, emotional health and physical health. If one of the spokes is broken or bent, the wheel will wobble. Our lives can often feel “wobbly” because our lives are not balanced. Perhaps for you, one or a few of the spokes are over-stressed or under-supported. Other spokes may have been neglected for too long.

Spoke Check

 

In order for your life wheel to remain in balance you may need to identify ways to do a “spoke check.”

Ask yourself the following questions for each spoke on your wheel:

 

  1. Are you satisfied with this spoke?
  2. How are you working on this spoke?
  3. Identify specific steps you can take to continue to work on this spoke and identify the benefits of having balance in this particular area. 

 

This doesn’t have to be a written exercise, but I prefer writing out the answers as I tend to be a visual processor. Choose the processing method or methods you know work for you.

 

At the end of the day

 

What I remind myself is: It is my responsibility to ensure that I am showing up healthy and balanced. When I feel wobbly, I must find ways to regain balance in my life, whether it is through prioritizing a healthy sleep schedule and diet, creating the time to exercise and engage meaningfully in the lives of those I love, or unplugging from tech to recharge. And, remembering that I am not alone in this experience of modern overwhelm.

Remember: you are your star player, and treat yourself accordingly.  

Editor’s note: If you’re seeking a safe space for revolutionary leaders to discuss topics like fear, courage, and equity in leadership, we recommend LTHJ Global’s free monthly Leadership Roundtable.

Care to share your ‘spoke’ learnings with Lisa? 
Email her your processing, or any questions for our next Dear Lisa letter, at: LisaG@LTHJGlobal.com