I have been compelled to write quite a serious post this week, as I’ve recently experienced a flurry of new clients who have sought my help due that oh so familiar feeling of stress and overwhelm!
Picture: Edvard Munch, Sick Child
I write regularly about how we need to take care of ourselves in our lives and our businesses as do many other bloggers and business owners…this is not a new subject by any means.
So many of the posts that you will read as we pootle around the net looking for advice on how to handle stress and overwhelm tell us take time out. Have a holiday they tell us….have a spa day…book a massage or treatment…have that glass of wine or cup of tea with a good book. The list goes on.
But what do you do when you are experiencing more than a ‘I have a little too much on my plate’ to more of an acute stress or trauma in your life?
I know this feeling….
I am stranger to this. In fact I experienced this very recently myself.
A few weeks ago, my beloved Grandfather passed away after a long and drawn out illness. On the day he died, my mother was taken seriously ill and was admitted into hospital herself. The powers that be were feeling pesky that day, and so they decided I needed the added challenge of admitting my mother to the same ward that my grandfather had passed away on just hours earlier.
On top of all of this, I had booked a very expensive trip away the following day for 2 nights and I also a friend of a friend staying with me the same week, who I had said could stay with me to be nearer to a conference she was due to go to. Of course I then had my ‘normal work’ that week including client sessions, writing deadlines and some University marking to complete.
I was on the verge of a meltdown!
This isn’t made better by a cup of tea!
I can tell you now, that a cup of tea or massage would not have cut it in this case. In times like this we feel like we can’t focus on anything in our world, let alone our work or businesses. This is really a fight or flight situation. Look your situation in the face and deal with it or turn and run….metaphorically speaking.
The fact is that when you lead a full life. When you have a life that is fortunately full of people you love, when you have real-life commitments and the need, and desire, to sustain a good income, life as they say, is going to ‘get in the way’.
I’m sure as you are reading this you can think of a time when you have felt like everything as going ok, maybe even really well and then suddenly the universe decides to present to you, as I like to call it an opportunity for growth : )
So what can you do…really?
I’m going to summarise some things that I recommend that can help you in times of crisis, acute stress or overwhelm. These may not all work for you and maybe you do some of them already, but you may also not know what to do and so I hope you find these things useful.
The first thing I recommend you could do in a moment of crisis is to get really clear about what the crisis is? This sounds silly, but let me go back to my own example to help explain what I really mean by this.
Getting clear means taking stock of the things that I had control of, and those I didn’t. In my case there was nothing I could do about what had happened to my Grandfather. I knew that my grief, though it was there in all its glory would essentially have to be parked while I ‘took care’ of the things that needed my immediate attention, namely my mum. In this case it was my priority to get her comfortable and put at ease. I could then set fourth cancelling my holiday, calling my insurance company and also contacting my friend regarding her stay.
Getting clear is often best done with someone in your world who can be rationale and calm. This may be your partner, it may a specific friend or family member. This kind of person acts as a sounding board to your thinking through of the situation, and can be really helpful if you feel emotional or need help getting clear your execution of your plan or even by making calls/running errands and the like.
What happens when you don’t get clear, is that you end up fire-fighting and maybe even being pulled in all directions by others who are around you. When you do this you are not putting your needs first and this can mean more stress in the long run. Getting clear requires a strategic thinking through of what needs to be done and setting the wheels in motion.
Just having this clarity and a plan of attack can help us to feel like we have some control over the storm.
CREATE YOUR BOUNDARIES
When you are in this kind of acute phase of stress, your boundaries and fundamental needs are really important for both your immediate and your long term health.
Again, let me go back to my example. When I was going through this, there were many people around me who had expectations of what I should or should not be doing (this is not unusual and I’m sure you can relate!). One small example was the expectation that I would go home and stay with family while this was occurring.
So, I have a need to have my own space. This was even more important while this was happening. I knew that every night the ritual of driving home for an hour and a half, would allow me to decompress. The ability then to go home and be at home and sleep in my own bed, was a need that I was not willing to give up during this time. It may have upset people, but tough!
In this case, you should think about what boundaries you also have in your own situation. What are willing to do/not do/ What are you willing to give up or not give up? Again, thinking about what is important for you, so that you can retain some ‘normality’, some routine or activity that means that you retain a sense of self as well as a feeling of control over the situation you are in.
PLAN YOUR NEXT STEP
As you move further into this period of stress or trauma, I would be checking in regularly to reassess where I was in regards to the event/period to see how I felt.
Has your situation resolved itself? Are you feeling better, more able to return to your version of ‘normal’ or ok to settle in to your ‘new normal’ depending on what has happened?
There will come a moment when you feel more able to look forward and plan in a conscious and comfortable way. There might be things that you have missed doing too that you want to get back to.
Maybe you will have to go back to work or maybe you have put your business on hold and so have the desire now to get back into this. Maybe it is as simple as getting back to your usual tasks of shopping and running your household, things that often get pushed to the bottom of our lists (funny how the washing being done isn’t so important after all?).
When we have been in a stressful situation its amazing how the most menial errands and tasks can actually seem exciting and fun. I remember when I was going through my stuff…the thought of just going out for a coffee and sitting in the sun seemed just blissful and I couldn’t wait to do it.
During this time, you may want to try and re-establish these things as you feel more able to go forward. Inevitably for some, there is no choice about when you go back to work or your business. If you have to earn money, we do not always have the luxury of waiting until we feel ‘ready’ to go back to this. In light of this, I would keep the practice of creating your boundaries as much as possible, in order to help you as you transition. For example, it might be that you have to go back to work, but that you stick to your hours; that you take your lunch breaks; that you leave early if you can; that you take leave if you are able.
Do whatever you are able to to do to make your transition back to your ‘best self’, as easy for yourself as possible.
MAKE LIFE ‘TWEAKS’
So, here is the juiciest tip I have of all.
Based on what you’ve experienced or been through or learnt or ‘survived’….now what are you going to do?
What you have experienced may have been life changing?
Maybe it wasn’t, but if we work on the premise that we can learn something from everything we experience, what might you want to do differently because of it?
Is that you you realise you want to spend more time with loved ones? Is that you want to take up that course that you’ve been putting off? Is that your whole life at home or even business or job need changing?
Maybe you’ve realised that you want to leave the job you are in and do something else? Maybe you realise that you want to earn more money to give you more flexibility or that you want to be your own boss so that you don’t have to ask someone else for time off when s*+# hits the fan?
This is almost the most important piece of advice of all. After all if we don’t learn from our experiences and change, what is it all for?
I can tell you that life, as it does, will throw stuff up again and that is when people who don’t think about what they want, end up doing the same things again. And we all know, that if you do the same thing, you have to expect the same results. That can mean feeling even more stressed and overwhelmed the next time.
So, I invite you to ponder these questions…
What can I/what do I want to do differently?
What will make the biggest difference to my life and future self?
What do I owe to myself in light of what Ive experienced?
What do I know for sure?
Over to you…
I hope you’ve founds these tips helpful? Maybe the next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed you can try some of these things to help yourself?
I’d also like to hear from you? Maybe there are other things you can offer that would be helpful to others about the things you do when you are feeling stressed.
Please share and connect with other fellow readers by commenting below.
Til next week, when I’ll be announcing all the details for MPWC2015….finally!
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