Did you know that there’s an American Institute of Stress?
I was mid-scroll doing some research for an upcoming project, and there it was – a link to an organization solely dedicated to the overwhelm-related stress epidemic.
Talk about a “holy moly” reminder that THIS is where we are.
It’s no wonder though, right?
There are an infinite number of things we could do (and feel like we have to do), and a limited amount of time and energy that we have at our disposal.
As a stay-at-home mom, a business owner, an author, a business director for a friend’s business, and an Army Reservist, and the future director of a non-profit dedicated to helping kids develop confidence (shhh – you’re the first one to hear, and there’s a ton of work still required), I absolutely feel the overwhelm tug knocking at my door on the daily.
But left unchecked, overwhelm and too-much-to-do stress has the ability to completely derail us and keep us from living happy, fulfilled lives.
The Effects of Too-Much-to-Do Stress
Now, there are many well-known negative effects of stress. But besides our health, there are several other things that being overwhelmed does to us:
When we have too much going on, it can be hard to prioritize and minimize distractions. Think about it – if you’ve got a mile-long to-do list, with a presentation to finish, cupcakes to bake for school, a house to clean before the in-laws visit, 3,762 emails in your inbox, and everything else that NEEDS your attention, it’s going to be pretty hard to concentrate on the task at hand. Plus, when we start thinking about how our tasks outweigh our time and energy available, we have a physical reaction – stress hormones. Those bad boys (although very useful in actual life-threatening situations) wreak havoc in the long term, AND make it very hard to focus on the task at hand.
Have you ever been spending time with someone, then started thinking about the other thing you have to do, and all of a sudden realize you haven’t heard a word they said for the last 3 minutes?
I have. And it’s pretty crappy.
I don’t want to waste my time with the people I love because I’m distracted and overwhelmed.
And I don’t want to be distracted at work either, because I’ve got some big goals, and – if I’m being honest – I want to accomplish them quickly and efficiently so I can go back to spending time with my family, and catching up on my Kindle reading.
This is one thing we don’t often think about when it comes to being overwhelmed – how it affects our subconscious.
See, when we have too much on our plates and no great way to handle them, we tend to get disorganized and miss deadlines. Then, our subconscious says, “I can’t get it together,” or “I never get anything done on time,” or some other equally unhelpful phrase.
And that, my friend, does not lead to confidence and motivation to achieving our big dreams and creating lives that make us excited to get out of bed in the morning.
So what are we to do?
The Good News: Work-Life Balance isn’t as Elusive as We Think
Whew – work-life balance.
It’s a topic that almost makes me cringe when I think about it.
And that’s because I think that somewhere along the way, the idea of having a perfectly balanced life has gotten waaaaay out of control.
Can you do all the things?
Can you do all the things at the same time?
Can you do all the things in equal amounts?
Uh…. (Is this even a real question…? Who wants this? I sure as heck don’t.)
I think part of that part of the answer to reducing feelings of overwhelm is to reframe how we define “balance.”
One of the things I don’t agree with in the unhealthy view of balance is that we have to be all the the things to all the people, and have to keep everything in these nice neat containers where everything is compartmentalized and equal.
Life isn’t like that.
Life is messy.
This idea of dedicating equal and even amounts of our time to each area of our life (career, family, community, self-care, finances, etc.) is unrealistic and adds a lot of stress to our lives.
It’s another form of perfectionism and living up to an arbitrary set of standards that only leads to more stress.
What I propose instead is to cut out this extra layer of stress, and think of “balance” more in terms of “harmony.”
Here’s how I like to think of it….
Create More Work Life Balance by Thinking about Food
Now when folks talk about eating a balanced meal, it doesn’t mean that there’s an equal amount of protein, gains, veggies, fruit and dairy on your plate.
It means that you have these things IN PROPORTION.
And it doesn’t even mean you want the same amount of each thing every day.
Some days you might have a hard workout or do a lot of physical labor, and you’re going to want some more protein.
Some days you might be wanting to detox, so you go for extra veggies.
And some days (or months – I’m looking at you October through April), there’s just a ton of candy and Girl Scout cookies around, and well…. Let’s just say I’m always game for a box of Thin Mints.
You get the picture though – just like a balanced meal doesn’t mean equal, a balanced life doesn’t have to mean equal either.
Just like a balanced meal doesn’t mean equal, a balanced life doesn’t have to mean equal either.
You Get to Decide what Life Balance Means to You
You get to choose.
Feels pretty good, eh? Just typing that made me sigh and relax a little. 😉
Sometimes you may be pushing really hard in your career, so other stuff takes a back burner.
Sometimes you may be focused on relationships and family, so that’s where most of your focus goes.
The point is, I 1000% support figuring out what your ideal vision of balance/harmony looks like for you, and going with it.
And then changing it as you go along too.
You get to decide what a balanced life looks like to you. Only then do I recommend going out and figuring out how to put all the pieces together.
Because the one thing we absolutely DON’T need, is to be dumping extra stress on ourselves for not having the perfect, equal amount of time dedicated to meeting unrealistic expectations.
Just a little food for thought (cheesy pun – HAHA, I did it again – intended).
Until next time, I invite you to take a look at how overwhelm is affecting you (because G.I. Joe says that knowing is half the battle), and see if changing your perspective of work-life balance might be helpful.
And of course, I’d love to hear from you! What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to getting everything done?
Jewell “Hunting Harmony” Siebert