Thursday, September 16, 2010

Overwhelmed Much? Here's a Tip...


Yesterday I got a phone call from my older sister Tina, who now lives in Alabama.  Despite not getting too many breaks in life, she really is amazing.  In addition to being a single mom, having given birth to ger first child at the young age of 42, she also has a demanding full-time job and is working on a degree through the University of Phoenix.

I barely got out a “hello” when she started reading me her current assignment, a tinge of desperation in her voice.  Feeling overwhelmed, she wasn't sure she understood the question -- let alone the solution.  Yet, pretty quickly I was to help her break the problem down into manageable bits, find her confidence and realise she actually knew the answers.

I have to admit that it’s somewhat gratifying when Tina calls me asking for homework advice. Growing up, she was “cool.”  Me?  Um, not so much. I was a Glee kid.  It makes me happy when my geekiness adds value.

Despite being considered a few fries short of a Happy Meal when we were kids, the truth is that my sister is smart.

I’ll never forget when Tina first moved down south from Boston. She called home after being there maybe two weeks.   In her quickly adopted southern drawl she explained, “All these years everyone told me I was slow. Turns out, I was just born in the wrong part of the country.”

In our conversation yesterday, she also shared that she's trying to figure out how to best balance motherhood, work, school and her own wellness.

I live for these conversations of course.   (Thus, the blog.  Hello.)

Let's discuss...

- Have you ever felt overwhelmed?
- Have you become controlled by endless to-do lists? 
- Do you worry that maybe you can't do it all?
- Do you sometimes wonder if everyone else around you is completely oblivious?
- Have you ever hoped that someone else might actually appreciate that you are doing it all?

Like with Tina's homework assignment, sometimes we just need a manageable view of what is in front of us and the belief in ourselves that we can do it. (Perspective, prioritization, confidence...yada, yada, yada.)

However, lately I've been really focused on that last question about appreciation. Sometimes the truth hurts. Whether it’s our kids or our partner or our boss; the reality is that they really don’t have a full appreciation for what we do every flippin’ day.  

Hey - it's our own fault. We do way too much for everyone else and make it look too damn easy to boot.   Can we really complain about people crossing boundaries which we've neglected to set?
It's only natural that people take for granted what they’ve come to expect as the status quo.

Oh, they will say they appreciate you.   My husband (and my kids and my boss) might actually be offended at the insinuation that they don't appreciate me.

If you ask me if I appreciate having electricity, I would say “yes.” Of course I do honey.

But the truth is that on a day-to-day basis, I've taken for granted that the lights come on, the fridge keeps food cold and the toilet flushes.

UNTIL 70 mph winds come through and rip down the power lines so all of that is gone for two days, such as happened in my neighborhood this past weekend. Yikes.

Your life balance lesson for today is ridiculously simple:  DO LESS.

This means setting boundaries before your sanity blows away to the Land of Oz. (And, before you become the Wicked Witch of the Western hemisphere.)

As soon as you have the sense that you’re doing way too much and you are losing that precious inner balance – trust that feeling and make a change.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 

Whining doesn’t count. (Did somebody call a waaa-mbulance?)

We’re "doing it all" because we’ve created that pattern.   But why?  Why oh why have we gotten ourselves into this unmanageable situation?   More importantly, how do we get out of it?

Here are three myths which get us into trouble at both work and home:

   1. If I want it done right, I have to do it myself. You know that whole confidence = capacity thing I am always blathering on about? That applies to our confidence in others as well. The people in our lives are way more capable than we give them credit for.  Stop being such a freakin' control freak.

   2. If I admit I can’t do it all, they won’t love me. Attention fellow perfectionists and over-achievers: There is no one on this earth holding you anywhere near the standard to which you are holding yourself.  Let it go.

   3. If I don’t do it, nobody will. The main reason nobody else is doing it, is because you are. Unfortunately, the idea of just not doing it and seeing if anyone will pick up the slack doesn't work. (I tried going on "strike" from doing laundry once; my husband just started buying new clothes.)   Sadly, if you want others to take over some stuff, you will need to ask them to do it.  If you're thinking, “I shouldn’t need to ask.” Get over it. You do.

Rest assured that when you start setting boundaries, you may meet resistance for obvious reasons.  Or not. I have definitely been surprised before. (See #1)  

Bottom line is to tune in and know when what you are doing is not sustainable. Although most likely you created it, know that it is also within your power to make it better.

Best,
Charlene
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56 comments:

Paige said...

What great advice! Came by from SITS to say Hello. Have a great week!

{ Persis Shah } said...

i think this post would make fantastic reading for all mother's out there. i could completely picturize my mom whilst reading it...i can't wait to get her to read it too!

~persis.
http://onestylemile.blogspot.com/

Acting Balanced Mom said...

I have to say that I agree with your points ... especially the need to feel like super mom and accomplish everything yourself... I usually take a step back and analyze why things are falling to me again... my hubby is uber wonderful about doing things around the house, but he has peaks at work that require him to work there seven days a week sometimes, and my daughter gets behind on her chores too... usually because of homework and general tween issues... but I remember those times tooo... sometimes its all about sitting down and refocussing priorities before things get out of hand... and even after - just taking time to stop and breath sometimes makes the overwhelming situation better.

Stopping by from SITS and rambling inanely since its way past my bed time...

BLOGitse said...

Every couple, family should have 'meetings' to agree about the rules.
Even if a woman is at home she should have a life of her own. Not only 'be at service 24/7'.
Family is a team and every team has their own 'rules' (but not military way, discussion way).
Important and great post!

BLOGitse

Missa said...

I have also tried to stop doing things around the house, in the hopes that someone would pick up the slack. Sure enough, my house looked like a train wreck in no time. I sadly have to be part of the process or no asking, pleading, or discussions will get me any help. :-(

Cheers,
Missa
LosingEthel

Lesley said...

I definitely needed to hear this today!! I started a new job last week and I've been trying to impress everyone by putting on my Superwoman cape. So far, I'm frazzled - my boss is oblivious - and I've been totally frustrated. Thanks for reminding me to relax a little and set some boundaries. I feel better.

Melissa @ Cellulite Investigation said...

This is a good one, Charlene. So often women take on that martyr complex. I think it is so important not to put yourself last. What kind of example is that setting for the next generation? If we want our children to be happy, we have to SHOW them how to be happy. Truly happy.

Hunter said...

Great advice.

I loved your sister's comment about living in the wrong part of the country.

Serenityville said...

Brilliant, as usual. A reminder I need, despite living a quite external-stress free life. It's great to hear the reminder that I don't have to do everything, that I don't have to be perfect. I LOVE remembering that, and letting go of it!
Feels amazing to just breathe!

Sarah said...

right now i feel like the woman in the picture. ya, a little overwhelmed. thanks for the reminder that we don't have to be.

webb said...

When my husband retired he wanted to know what he could do to help - "the grocery shopping," I smiled. "But, we do that together," says he. "Yes, and I hate it," says me. He actually did do it for about three months, and now we do it together. Oh, well. But.... now he does do all the vacuuming. Would I prefer that he did the shopping - absolutely. But does the vacuuming help? You betcha! Lesson learned - I had to ask for it, and then be prepared to trade.

And, Charlene, we appreciate you!

Eat Smart Age Smart said...

Have you become controlled by endless to-do lists?

This is an excellent question!

I used to have endless lists of to-do, but since reading Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Work Week (the 2009 edition), I've changed my ways for the best!

Krizia here from SITS!

Sarah said...

I feel overwhelmed all the time! I take care of everything in the house, the baby, the bills, I blog, and I work part time. Sometimes I just feel like it's too much. That's good advice. Do less!

Fergitude said...

That was a great post! I especially liked this sentence: "This means setting boundaries before your sanity blows away to the Land of Oz. (And, before you become the Wicked Witch of the Western hemisphere.)" I love your sense of humor!

lori said...

I really enjoyed this. I can sooo relate to the "I shouldn't have to ask for help" mentality. It's hard for me to do.

sweetjeanette said...

Hi! Thanks so much for visiting my blog on my SITS day! Your comment on the Freezer Foods Friday was sweet...and yes, you should definitely try to work it out to start this! It has been such a help in our household. (beats "cereal for supper" any day! LOL)

Come back often - I love seeing your sweet comments. and by the way, I'm now subscribing to your posts via email! Thanks!

jeanette
(sweetjeanette.com)

Dandelioness said...

As someone who struggles to not say "Yes" all the time and tends to take on the world.. I loved this blog post! I also loved your sister's insight into living in the wrong part of the country. Hooray for the Slow movement!

hipchic~cynde said...

Great blog, stopping by from SITS!
I am on Day 5 of P90X and love it!!! I noticed your update in the side bar!

Christa Terry said...

I know I have to ask. He won't just automatically pick up the slack. But, oh, I hate to ask because it makes me feel like I have to be the responsible adult while he just does what's asked. No one has to ask me to do this or that! I see a problem, I address it. I see a mess, I clean it up. Shouldn't every adult do the same?

Charlene said...

Wow - thanks for all the comments. Looking forward to visiting you all!

Paige: Thanks SITStah!

Persis: Pass it on for sure! 

Balanced Mom: Reprioritizing and taking time to breathe… SO true – much needed!

BLOGitse: Will need to think about the “meeting” idea – thanks!

Missa: Crazy, right? My husband will look at dirt forever until I finally ask him to help. Then, he’s a STAR… but it usually takes me asking.

Lesley: Glad I could help. It’s been especially stressful for me at work recently so I have really had to practice what I preach!

Melissa: Ya know, I hadn’t thought of the “next generation” thing – but it’s a great point.

Hunter: Thanks. I’ve been laughing at that piece of the story for years… glad I finally got to share it here!

Serenity: It’s not easy being a perfectionist but it helps to know I’m not the only one!!

Sarah: I know the feeling. But yes, it’s optional!

Charlene said...

Fergi: Sometimes it IS too much. The key is recognizing when we need to say “when.”

Lori: I hear ya! Thanks for stopping by!

Jeanette: Thanks for subscribing! I’ll be coming back to you for freezer recipes for sure!

Dande: Thanks and glad to know I’m not alone!

Cynde: Hi SITStah! I’m almost DONE P90X… absolutely let me know if you have any questions along the way. I’ve been LOVING it!! (Hard at times but stick with it. It’s worth it!)

Christa: One would think. Yet, “adult” can be a subjective term when it comes to husbands. LOL! (Just kidding honey!)

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

Balance is so hard and so important! You're funny though, I wasn't a Glee kid, but now I'm sort of wishing I was...

Stopping by from SITS...
Happy Saturday Sharefest
Alex aka Ma, What's For Dinner
www.mawhats4dinner.com

The Guy's Perspective said...

You are right. Often the person that feels under appreciated is the one creating it. "If I don't do it, it won't get done. Or it won't get done right."

In some cases that is the case, but we have to ask ourselves do we really care??

If the laundry isn't folded properly do we really care, and is it important?

(Of course in your case, buying new clothes kind of defeats the purpose.)

Someday I'm going to chuck my To Do List! Maybe I should start sooner, rather than later. OK, I'll put that on the list too! :) Nice post!

Kim said...

What a great post! That is just what I need sometimes. Can you be my "adoptive" sister and let me call you when I am having those moments? I guess I will just bookmark this page. :-)

UberGrumpy said...

Cool! Do you do tax returns? I'll pay...

Eva Gallant said...

Excellent. Number 3 resonates with me. I feel like I shouldn't have to ask, and then get angry when Hubby doesn't see what needs to be done!

Charlene said...

Guy - I write all this but I am still addicted to my "to do" list. Can't help myself.

Kim - I would love you to become a "Follower" and you can also get my updates via email using the "subscribe by email" feature on my sidebar. Happy to help anytime! :-)

Uber - I highly recommend H&R Block. (See, how I didn't just say "sure." Growth!)

Eva - It only took me about 12 years to figure that one one out!!

scrapwordsmom said...

I love and collection sunshines so I am loving your Blog!! So upbeat!!:) Leslie

Confessions From A Working Mom said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. I am one of those people who cannot say "no"; not to friends, to family, to co-workers or bosses. I definitely take on more than I can chew, and it stresses me out! I need to try to add "no, thanks" back into my vocabulary!

~Elizabeth
Confessions From A Working Mom

Heidi Walker said...

Overwhelmed, every day lately. I have decided to STOP trying to do everything in a day. There are only certain tasks I can achieve and I should learn to become happy with achieving those.

I have always been an overachiever. It is just what I do. People tell me I work too hard. I push myseld too hard. But I do not feel that way. I feel that I do not work hard enough and am a slacker.

I am forcing myself to embrace slackerdom. It brings forth more fruit. Chatting with folks and getting to know them or taking time just for my self has proven to me that the world will not fall apart.

Crystal Escobar said...

I my gosh! I LOVED this. I just did a post on almost the very same thing. Great minds think a like, and this is probably bound to happen since our blogs focus on the same thing, BALANCE :) You're awesome Charlene, and grateful to have you as my new blog buddy. You inspire me!

The Single Mom said...

I love your blog. I'm a single mom and I too am struggling to achieve that balance between work and and being a mother.

Meaghan said...

Great blog post and great advice!

The Guy's Perspective said...

Hope you're having a good weekend. I look forward to your next post. :)

lori said...

Hi again - just wanted to pass this award onto you:
http://tinylittlereveries.blogspot.com/2010/03/blog-awards.html

I love your blog!

Queenie Jeannie said...

Fabulous post and you are right on the money!!! Unfortunately....I AM a control freak, lol! But I'm getting better about asking for help and lowering the standards. Better, but not quite perfected yet, lol!!!

Michelle said...

I love the Wicked Witch of the West addition! It is so true. When I take on too much and do too much for others, I get grumpy and then NO ONE appreciates what I've done.
Very good advice!

Sara Plays House said...

Ugh, I have been working on #1 for AWHILE now. My husband and I talked about it just last week--I was sick, and he was helping with the kids. Just not doing things the way *I* would do them.
Sigh. I was reminded that I should just be appreciative that I have someone to help. Even if Avery's hair was a mess. :)
Happy SITS Day!

T-rexy said...

Wow! MORE great encouragement! You are SO right, and even though sometimes we know these things, we forget. Hearing them is sometimes all one needs to relax a little.

I would love to hear your take on handling the feeling of being overwhelmed by deadlines. Having a deadline on the horizon is such an amazingly stressful experience, and it keeps people from doing their best.

Karen, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

That was good stuff! The part I liked best was to ask others to do things instead of doing it all yourself but we have to ask. I thought that was funny too that your husband just went and bought new clothes when you didn't do the laundry.

Congrats on your SITS day!

Louise | Italy said...

Hey, Charlene, do you think if I went on laundry strike my husband might start buying ME some new clothes??? I'll try it and report back!

Sarah said...

Love this. You are very inspiring and I love reading your words. Stopping by from SITS...glad I'm here!

Blissful Babe said...

I am so glad that I found you. :) This is just the thing I need. I may have to come back everyday to read just this post alone!

Elizabeth Patch said...

Love it! Do less, enjoy more! now must rush off to check a few things off my to-do list...
:)

Jamee said...

What great advice!

Happy SITS day!

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

I really needed to read this today! Great advice! :)

Happy SITS Day! :)

Young Wife said...

Great post! Stopping by from SITS.

Sarah said...

Happy SITS day!

I agree it is ALL about the boundaries. Learning to say "No" is the best thing I did!

LivingInspired said...

Stopping by from SITS and so glad I did! My husband always lets me know that I am a control freak, and well...he's right (damn). We were just watching that new movie, Date Night, the other night and there's a whole part when Steve Carrell (husband) tells Tina Fey (obvious wife) that she would be pleasantly surprised if she let him do things (your #1). My husband turned right in his seat and gave me the "are you listening?" eye. So thank you for your insight!

Chelsea said...

Happy SITS day, great post, lots of good advice, thanks and keep up the good work!!

Baby Sweetness said...

I love this! Mostly because I'm currently in a mini-laundry strike and I'm pretty sure my husband will be willing to wear clothes dirty MUCH longer than I'm willing to be seen with him doing so...

happy SITs day!

Double Wide Mom said...

Great advice! Love me some Boundaries! Here from SITS

Lourie said...

Oh I am so very guilty of #1 and #3. Every once and while I delegate out chores and it is usually met with grumblings and b*tchings. But it is worlds better for me when I do. Just have to keep at it once you start to set those changes in place.

Happy SITS Day to ya!

Caity said...

This is fantastic advice. I feel overwhelmed quite a lot, actually... especially recently since I am moving overseas. I think this advice will really help me.

bernicewood said...

Overwhelmed was an understatement. It eventually led to mental meltdown in July. I am now on medical leave trying to rebuild my life to where I can learn to put boundaries in place and limit what I attempt to do.
Bernice
http://bernicewood.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/trying-so-hard-to-be-myself/

emily said...

Thanks for the great advice here (and thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your sweet comment).

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