As summer winds down and the kids go back to school, traffic congestion surges and job demands seem to multiply….
Time becomes an even more precious and scarce commodity. Suddenly, the slower pace and summer lull many of us enjoyed in July and August comes to a screeching halt.
And reality sets in: you are stretched thin and stressed.
How do I know? Because I’ve been there.
In fact, I used to experience this cycle several times a year before I learned how to consistently take better care of myself and make self-care a priority.
For many years, I accepted this vicious cycle of stress as a normal way of life.
Most of the time I managed ok – I slept and exercised less than I would’ve liked – but I was still keeping all the balls in the air and doing well at work.
I even put Band-Aids on the problem by scheduling quick 4-day vacations to warm, sunny places to supply me with the relaxation and rest I needed.
But every time when I returned to real life (which was approximately 689 unread emails, numerous requests from family and friends for my time, and the daily demands of running a household) – any benefits from my break were gone within my first day home.
About four years ago, a light bulb went off for me – if I needed to keep escaping my daily life for these mini-vacations, maybe vacations weren’t the answer. I needed to change something about my daily life.
I’m probably not much different from you in that I spend most of my daily life at work.
Here are some of the transformational steps I took to examine what wasn’t working in my daily life and my career and how I broke my cycle of stress.
1. Slow Down
I like to think I’m a smart person but it took me far longer than I care to admit (literally years!) to realize that I was unhappy in my job – I was working too many hours and no longer found the work enjoyable.
I was so worried about letting someone down at work or at home that I was pretty much on autopilot.
I was moving so fast trying to keep up with everything, that I never took the time to reflect and consider if a change might be good for me.
It wasn’t until I started being honest with myself and my co-workers about how I was feeling, that I allowed myself to take the gas off the pedal and see what that felt like.
Even then, I didn’t have an epiphany over night. It still took over a year for me realize that I actually didn’t want to be a partner in a big consulting firm (despite working towards that goal for over 10 years) and that I didn’t want to continue to work 60+ hour weeks.
2. Do Something
Once I figured this out, I had another problem. For 10+ years, my identity and self-worth had been wrapped up in my career and my ability to be all things to all people.
If I walked away from that, who would I be?
Well, heck, I had no idea, but I knew I just needed to try something else.
So I did.
I took a new job in a different industry doing something completely different than what I had done before.
I also started saying no to personal invitations when I didn’t want to go.
My days of people-pleasing were over.
It was scary and I had my doubts about whether I could succeed and if people would be mad at me.
But, you know what?
It literally forced me to take action and do something to change the path I was on.
And my family and true friends were completely supportive of me putting myself first.
3. Be Kind To Yourself
When I made the change to switch jobs, it was a big deal for me.
I had been at my firm for 7 years and was a known commodity.
Now I was going into a new environment, where I didn’t know anyone, and I had no track record and little direct experience with the type of work I was going to be doing.
Frankly, I was scared shitless.
I tend to be hard on myself and have high expectations for what I can achieve. I really didn’t know if I could do this job well.
So I decided to re-frame my definition of success.
Leaving my previous job wasn’t just about starting a new job and changing the direction of my career.
It was about changing my entire life.
It was about leaving the rat race of Big 5 Consulting and taking more time for me.
So I decided to use this job as an opportunity to do just that.
I used this role to hit the re-set button my life and looked for ways to create new routines and healthy habits (i.e., taking barre classes after work, seeing my nutritionist weekly).
These became measures of success along with my performance at work.
I no longer based my success and self-worth solely on what went down in the office.
If I can make these changes, I’m confident anyone can. I was a workaholic, people-pleasing, creature of habit.
And today, I’m still a creature of habit…but I have better habits. :)
Would you like to know how to assess and develop your own daily habits?
If so, click here for my free 45-minute training to learn how to show up powerfully in the workplace and feel fulfilled, while having more time for yourself and the things you love.