Are you screaming unmentionables in your head all day long? Do you feel like the character in the movie, Network, bellowing out the window for all the world to hear, “I’m mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore?” Do you fantasize about walking away from your job when you are within spitting distance of a pension? Do you find yourself working around the clock, home later, up earlier, with never enough time and emails stacked up like cord wood. Do you think if one more person asks you for one more thing your head might actually spin off your neck? You can barely take a full breath as you catch that plane, perfect that pitch and handle all three meetings scheduled at the exact same time.
The demands to today are far and beyond what they have been before. People are working harder and faster and still it is not enough. So many are at a breaking point, they want to walk away from their jobs, their caretaking responsibilities and their unceasing demands that are no longer chronic but are acute. Day-in and day-out, everything has morphed into an emergency. There is the perpetual dance of the fire drill. Today’s standard appears to be that everything is urgent; it must be done now, period.
What’s an overburdened, overworked person to do?
1. Stop. It feels very counter intuitive, but stop; really, stop right now. Take a mental health day ASAP and do no work. Walk away from your computer, Blackberry and I-pad. Put your smart phone in a time-out corner. Do absolutely nothing that resembles catch-up. You have spent nights and weekends playing catch-up and where has it gotten you? More and more work, right? Clearly, this methodology is not working for you.
2. Do something different. Change the game; change your brain. Pull weeds, plant flowers, go to a movie, sink into a novel, take a sky diving lesson, cook up something gourmet or take a well-deserved nap.
Research has proven that we are far more efficient, effective and creative if we change up our routines and stop working non-stop. In other words, days off pursuing your personal life will garner gains in your professional life. This is a win-win. How can you continue to say no?
3. Work smart. Those folks who work on optimal performance models, tells us that we should work in 90-120 minute chunks and then get up and do something different for 15 minutes. Why not test out this proven theory? Consider reconfiguring your day and telling the powers-that-be that you are following a peak performance template. Hey, you might start a trend.
4. Make the care and tending of your profound exhaustion a personal priority. You are not really effective if you are dragging your over-taxed, droopy, fried-brain self through countless meetings, calls and tasks. Good self-care rewards you with resilience and happiness.
A wise mom once said that 90 per cent of her family’s problems could be handled with a good meal and a good night’s sleep. Mom had an excellent point. A good meal and a good night’s sleep can’t undo countless days and nights of overwork, but they can help you to refind your feet and feel a bit more balanced as you take on the next day. It’s a baby step towards course correcting the frenetic nature of your life.
And think about this: the latest research out of Harvard indicates that skimping on sleep is linked to faster aging of the brain.
5. Move. All that thinking, strategizing, analyzing, worrying, debating and the like has left you head-heavy. Your body, more than likely, has been relegated to second-class citizen status. Shake up your energy; stretch your spinal column and allow more of the good energy, what the Chinese call the chi, to flow through you. You will find yourself more energized. And some of the screaming meamies may have found an outlet as well.
6. Create some boundaries. I’m not suggesting that you turn into a slacker, but it’s time to learn that time-honored and very difficult, head-shaking response, “No.” For such a small word, it packs a huge wallop. Where can you draw a line that will protect you? There is no right or wrong here, but discern what is right for you and how you can best honor yourself so that you feel emotionally and physically sane and centered.
Will you take your vacation and not work through it? Would you consider leaving work at a reasonable hour and not working at your desk at home until the wee hours? Will you cease putting everyone’s needs (and, hence, your expenditures of energy and time) ahead of your own priorities? Will you close your door, unplug the phone and turn off your computer? Will you say “Yes” to yourself.
7. Remember the bigger picture. There is life beyond your desk. Really, it’s true. There is much beyond you -- great activity, life, possibilities and options. There is much to quicken the heart, feed the soul and expand your creative portals. The world does not end when you walk away from your busyness. Consider a walk out the wild side and see what adventure might be calling your name.
And keep breathing, you have the power to create anew.
Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., is the author of Balancing Act: Reflections, Meditations, and Coping Strategies for Today’s Fast-Paced Whirl and a contributing author to the best-selling anthology, 2012: Creating Your Own Shift. You can learn more about Adele and her thinking http://theheraldedpenguin.com.