What does 'overwhelmed' feel like? Its something I've thought a lot about since reading "overwhelmed " by Washington post journalist Brigid Schulte.
It's that feeling that there is never enough time in the day, and that your to-do list is not getting any shorter.
When people ask you, how you are going, are you like me and automatically answer "really busy", as if being busy is a sign that what we are doing is important and matters.
With four teenage boys (two sons and two stepsons), a full time job as a TV journalist and public speaker, I am busy, researching, writing and presenting medical news on TV and radio, hosting events, coaching my son for his HSC, developing recipes for my husband's cafe and writing a health blog (even writing this list sounds like bragging.)
But science shows that trying to do it all is not doing us any good. Research shows that while a little stress to the system is a good thing, being constantly switched on and feeling overwhelmed actually causes the brain to shrink. Emily Ansell from the Yale Stress Centre scanned the brains of people with high levels of daily stress.
She found when stress becomes constant .. the part of the brain that governs how we think and reason and control ourselves, the prefrontal cortex, actually begins to shut down.
So while we might think we are trying to do the right thing by being all things to all people, we are actually doing ourselves damage.
So much of feeling overwhelmed comes from unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves.
Many of us fall into the trap of having to be perfect, the great co-worker, the perfect employee, the immaculate housekeeper, the super-involved mother, good friend, gourmet cook, having a sexy body, engaged mind, (You get the picture.)
What I learned from reading books like "overwhelmed" and "thrive" by media mogul Arriana Huffington, is that we are setting ourselves up for failure :)
You can't manage time. What you can manage is the activities you choose to do with your time.
So I took on board the practical solutions that both authors suggest to overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed.
Most important .. Schedule what you really want to achieve.
Even though I told myself I wanted to revamp my website and start writing a new blog, I realised it was always on the bottom of my to-do list (though somehow I had found time to watch every episode of the latest series of House of Cards)
I was putting off exercising because I knew I didn't have a spare hour during the day.
But I found something I could achieve and that even 30 minutes of walking and weights at the gym would clear my head and even give me new ideas for how to tackle the afternoon deadlines.
Set clear boundaries and enlist help. Delegate those tasks at the office that you really dislike and focus on what you love doing.
At home, I took on board the advice of a group Schulte writes about called "working mothers with big jobs" (though you could argue any working mother has a big job).
They are women who love working and love being a mother but they set realistic expectations and importantly, they ensure that their partners and kids share the load.
They decide what is is important to them and schedule that first on their calendars.
What I learnt is that there isn't one magic answer to stop feeling overwhelmed but reframing how you think about time and how you react to your responsibilities can help you forge a new way forward. That, and drawing up a list of household chores to distribute to teenagers as well.
How do you juggle work and family life?
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