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Feeling overwhelmed? Try letting go

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Rita05Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Just let go! The advice sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Your mind may be screaming back, “Oh, no! How can I possibly let go? There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all. I can’t let go! What if I miss a deadline? What if the kids don’t get dinner? What if the laundry is not done? What if? What if? What if?”

Yet research clearly shows us that if things are piling up and we are feeling overwhelmed, the precise prescription to feel better is to walk away for a bit. Or better yet, take a day off. You will return with a renewed attitude and uplifted spirits. By letting go, if only for a few minutes, you will also be able to think more clearly and be more productive when you return to your projects.

Another way to remove yourself from the feeling of being overwhelmed is to take an honest look at the expectations you have of yourself and others. Decide which expectations are inconsequential and then let them go.

Are you a perfectionist? I was too and it was literally killing me. Through a series of unpleasant events I got the message that not everything I am doing has equal weight. My business projects need to be a priority and need to be done very well. I hold myself to high standards for those. But other things in my life are simply not as important.

We humans think in patterns and love to categorize. To help me sift and sort the importance of each task and project, I created a little mantra for myself: “How Good is Good Enough?”

When I begin to work on something I quietly ask myself, “How good IS good enough?” This simple question allows me to choose how much time and energy needs to be put into the task at hand. Or if I will do it at all. My mantra also creates a huge sense of freedom as I let go of unrealistic expectations. The weight of feeling overwhelmed is lifted from my shoulders when I determine how good “good enough” really needs to be. Then I simply let go of the rest of the expectation.

Let’s try this out. Does it really matter if there are dirty dishes in my kitchen sink? How good is good enough? Since the morning is my most productive time, is it good enough to leave the dirty dishes in the sink right now and to spend my time writing instead. Really, will anyone die if there are dirty dishes in the sink? I release the expectation that in order to be a good person my kitchen sink has to always be clear of dirty dishes. (Where did that unconscious programmed belief even come from? How preposterous!) And then I say to myself, “No one is going to die because there are dirty dishes in the sink. Who cares? Let that go!”Then I take a deep breath and walk away from the dishes. The beauty is that this entire conversation with myself happens in a split second. My choices about where to spend my time and energy all come from asking “How good IS good enough?”

Now you try it. Will anyone die because the shoes by the doorway are in disarray? How good is good enough? Will anyone die because you chose not to look at your email on Sunday afternoon and to focus on family time instead? How good IS good enough? The mantra is a great stress reduction and work-life balance strategy.

In my garden greenhouse I have a rock that has a saying etched on it,“Peace begins when expectations end.” When I figure out which expectations I can put an end to and then release them, I sink into the most delicious feeling of peace and serenity. This is what balance feels like. Feeling overwhelmed is a thing of the past. At those moments I welcome the ease. Everything feels right with the world. My intention is to let go, release expectations and to create more of these Zen moments in my life. Ahhhhh!

Feeling Stressed, Tired and Rushed?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Stressed out office worker photo for IowaBiz (1)Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Are you juggling work and family commitments and feeling as though you are not doing either well? It turns out that you are not alone. Welcome to a social problem that is plaguing American workers. Some researchers call it ‘Work-life Balance’, some call it ‘Work-Family Effectiveness’. Whatever we call it we should take heart that if we work and have family commitments for children, aging parents or just making time to take good care of ourselves, this is not an individual problem. The feelings of inadequacy that juggling responsibilities creates is a social problem. It is an issue that most of us need to think about and address to break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed.

In 1989 a book called “The Second Shift” rocked our worlds when sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described the double burden employed mothers face because they are also responsible for housework and child care after returning home from a long day at work. In 2014, she said that despite some changes in society, the workplace had not changed enough to alleviate these stressors and problems.

Research study after research study indicates that the tension caused by juggling commitments is affecting American family life. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisors shows us that working parents are the new norm. 60% of children now live in households where all of the parents in the home work at least part time. In 1965 the number was only 40%.

The Pew research group found that 56% of all working parents say that the balancing act is difficult. These folks are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful; they are less likely to find it enjoyable and rewarding. Even if the children are grown you may find that you are still carrying the responsibility for a portion of their support and their living arrangements on top of your demanding job.

65% of parents with college degrees in the Pew study said they found it difficult to balance job and family. Professional workers are more likely than hourly workers to be expected to work, even after they leave the office, creating more work after the housework and family care responsibilities of “the second shift’.

The expectations of modern parenthood, care taking for elderly parents and the post-recession workplace, where working longer hours with less support is common, have all collided. We all lose.

What is a person in the new American workforce supposed to do to deal with these issues? The suggestions here are just a beginning list as I will be sharing more strategies in future articles:

  1. Engage other family members to take responsibility. Attend the Lift Iowa and Business Record event “Sharing the Second Shift” on May 4, 2016, to learn more about how gender equity in the home results in better outcomes for mothers, fathers, children and business. My business, Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, is a proud sponsor of this important event. Register at businessrecord.com/events.
  1. Become a lean family machine. Whether you are a single parent, an uncoupled person caring for an aging parent, or part of a partnership caring for children or pets, to alleviate our stressors we need to strategically create an efficient lifestyle given the realities of our work and family situations. A good first step is to take stock and list all of the commitments you have. Then pare down. Jettison anything that is a non-essential activity in your family and use that extra time to spend quality time together as a family.
  1. Be creative with your time. Would your employer consider a flexible work schedule where you arrive and leave early each day? Can you do any work from home or off site during the work week, minimizing the need for child care? Can you swing by the gym on your way to work and stay a bit later at the office that evening? Can you create a family game of getting the housework done each weekend, complete with rewards? Can you hire someone to do the things you don’t like to do or have the energy to do, freeing you up to feel more fulfilled about where you are putting your time.
  1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Are your expectations to “be, do and have it all” unrealistic at this time in your life? Take the pressure off of yourself and learn to say these magic words: “How good is good enough?” No, I am not advocating mediocrity here. I am suggesting prioritizing which tasks or activities make the most sense to spend time on. Do the children’s shoes have to be arranged perfectly next to the doorway? Is it worth 10 minutes of your day to rearrange them or can you live with them in disarray and instead spend the 10 minutes to read a story to your kids. How good IS good enough?
  1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your family. Sit them down and brainstorm solutions to the problem of having too much to do and too little time to do it in. Who is willing and capable of feeding the dog each day? Is your partner willing to commit to cooking or providing take-out four days a week? My husband tells the story of when his mother, at the age of 52, decided to finish her bachelor’s degree and pursue a Master’s degree with the dream of becoming a teacher. She held a family meeting to announce that her education would be her top priority and that the family would all need to work together to figure out a plan to put meals on the table each night. She was not going to be providing that service to them anymore. The beautiful part of this story is that the family collaborated, Ruth attained her college degrees and the lives of the students she taught were positively influenced. By having the strength and courage to speak her truth and let go, she created a win-win for everyone.

Balancing your professional life and your personal life does not have to be elusive. Using these suggestions, we can all take one small step today to slow down, become aware and make a deliberate small but mighty change. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and tired, we can feel a bit of peacefulness and enjoy our work and family situations again.

© Rita Perea, 2016

Read My Post About Workplace Distractions in Business Record Daily.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

How do you minimize work distractions and interruptions? Read my post in Business Record Daily.

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