Q: I am under so much pressure, and don't really see it changing. Between my kids and aging parent, and between my boss and my staff, it seems like everyone needs a piece of me. How can I keep it all together and still have something left for myself? I'm just plain tired.
A: It's a recipe for exhaustion, that's for sure! And it may take some creativity to find ways to remain energized and sustained.
Start with the positive. When do you feel your best? Sink into that feeling, closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths. Imagine the setting, the people around you, the sounds and smells; use your imagination to recreate that feeling. Also focus on the physical aspect, taking in how relaxation feels.
As an experiment, think about a more stressful situation, and notice in particular the physical impact it has. Does your breathing change, or do you feel your shoulders tense or your fists clench? Consciously reverse those physical effects; you'll see that you can defuse some of your inner tension by managing your physical responses.
Now scanning all aspects of your life, make a list of all the people, places, and things that make you feel good. Nothing is too big or too small — your list could range from a vacation to listening to your favorite song. In fact, a healthy sample of day-to-day "simple pleasures" will be valuable to know.
Compare this list to your actual experience. On an average day, do you do one of these things? Five? None? Reflect on the level to which you nurture yourself. It's so easy to take care of others first, but you're experiencing the consequences of that priority.
Where do you go from here? Right now, today, decide to do one thing for yourself. It may be as simple as taking a five-minute break in a quiet room, having dinner with a friend, or going for a walk. The key is to make it achievable with some emotional value for you. Then appreciate yourself for your follow-through.
We've focused on building yourself up; the other side of the coin is managing your responsibilities. In most cases, there are ways to reduce the burden, even a little bit. When you think about your personal life, are you allowing others in your family to step up? Are you asking for (and accepting) help? How about at work? Explore ways to become a more effective delegator. It'll help your team grow and take some burden off you.
As you ease some of the immediate strain through these tactical steps, you may find that you have the emotional space to do a larger assessment of your life. If you find that the structure of your life is not sustainable or that your situation cannot be managed in a way that nourishes you, consider more substantial changes you might make. But take care not to do that in the heat of the moment, as it could lead to decisions you regret.
All said, it's essential that you put yourself first in order to be valuable to others. And even simple steps will help sustain you.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.