You wake up and commute 20 feet to work at your computer. Your children are 1.5x more likely to interrupt you as a woman – not a male spouse. You’re worried about not having enough time to fulfill your duties at work.
Days blur from one to the next. The number of minutes are finite and it’s a constant triage how to divide and allocate them.
Something has to give. But nothing can give!
What can you do when everything seems out of control?
1. Get more energy from your own nervous system.
You can get more relaxation and more perspective just from tapping your own nervous system.
Your nervous system has an “On” button that gives you access to energy and focus. And an “Off” button that gives you access to calm and rejuvenation.
Today you are “Always On”. Though it gives you the ‘oomph’ to carry out all your tasks, it also makes you feel EVERYTHING has to be done all at once, and by you! Always “On mode” gives you a sense of time famine.
In contrast, the “Off button” part of your brain helps you take a step back to see the big picture and figure out your priorities. Your “Off” button helps you calmly come up with new and creative ways to approach your challenges so you feel less defeated.
Breathing is the bridge to balance your On and Off button, and give you access to both. Try a Mental Reset breath in which you inhale, hold, and exhale through your nose, each to the count of 5. Even doing this breath for 2-3 minutes will make you feel calm, relaxed, warm, and expansive inside. (You can download the audio instructions for this Mental Reset breath at www.sharonmelnick.com/mentalreset)
The more difficult it is to create space outside you the more important it is to create space inside of you. Even if you can only steal 3 minutes for yourself, this brief breathing getaway will give you instant calm and clear-headedness.
Yes, you probably have to get creative and fiercely proactive to find the time and space to do it! It might mean creating a bubble around you during the time you can shut the door in the bathroom. Or create a shelf or an ‘altar’/special corner filled with items that make you feel pampered, beautiful, feminine, or strong…and when you go to that area you have a special seat that allows you to take your brief 3-minute rejuvenation. Doing this as a routine as you transition from the ‘work’ part of your day to bringing your attention to your ‘home’ life can help you feel you are more in control.
2. Don’t count the minutes
You are trying to do it all and be all things to all people… and you feel you are failing everywhere. “I’m not giving enough to my children. I’m barely surviving what I need to do at work. And I’m worried.”
Instead of ending the day feeling like you didn’t do enough, take a step back and look at the ‘birds-eye’ view. Think more about overall life satisfaction. Are you spending your time overall in the direction of the values of your life? Think of how you are being there for your work or for your children over the course of the week or the month, not each day.
Pay attention to what are the most important moments for you to be present in your work and in your home life – is it math homework for your children, the weekly check-in with your direct report, or the 5 minutes before bed with your spouse? Try to prioritize being there in those moments, and enjoy being present – even if other minutes are devoted to your own tasks.
Set up routines so you and your children can get into habits that make it easier to transition from one activity to the other with less of your attention.
3. Lead the “Village”
Don’t set yourself up to have to do everything on your own. For example, your new household situation may now mean everyone needs 3 meals a day. Your first reaction might be one of immediate overwhelm “I have to make 3 meals a day!” Instead, think of it more like you are leading a work project: “3 meals have to be provided… how can we divide up the tasks to get this outcome?” Have a sign-up sheet for ‘who does what’.
Lead a discussion in your household or with your workmates: What kind of experience do we want to have in our day? How can we problem-solve ‘together’.
4. Be a Change Agent
You put pressure on yourself for obvious reasons – you love your family, you are dedicated and passionate about your work – but also for invisible reasons:
We have built-in biases about what’s expected of us as women – to unquestioningly be all things to all people. We are wired to support others, but without the support to do it.
As women, we want to become aware that we are set up so that even when we are being Superwoman, it’s never enough. We are conditioned to live in the gap of judging ourselves – or one another. Society was set up so women’s main focus was on childrearing and taking care of the homestead, but since then women have come into the workplace we now have 2 full-time jobs.
And on top of that, the workplace wasn’t built to play both a breadwinner and a caretaking role. We have to start in our own heads and our own home lives: “what is the quality of life we want?”; “what is our priority to get done”? “what lessons do we want our children to learn” and start to make decisions based on those questions.
You know in your heart that this isn’t the context that works best for EVERYONE. With curiosity, you can be the one to raise these questions with people you work with and live with. What are our highest priorities? How can we improve communication so we reduce re-work? (Some workplaces are responding to this kind of courageous input with ‘no meeting’ times and dedicated hours of time off for parents which is a start…)
When you raise ideas in the context of how EVERYONE can benefit, you can have more impact with less fear of the consequences. Every woman in her power is a Change Agent!