Are You Thriving or Overwhelmed?

Hi everyone,

There’s a fine line between thriving at work, loving your job and getting a buzz from what you do, and feeling overwhelmed. I’m only usually able to identify that overwhelmed feeling on reflection, after things have getting on top of me for a period of weeks and months and then it’s harder to bring myself out of the resulting low mood that settles upon me. In a mentor meeting once I decided I would develop some sort of tool, a questionnaire type thing that would help me understand where I was at, with a view to checking in on it once a month, to try and make sure that I was looking after myself and not becoming too absorbed in my work, which can easily happen because I love what I do.

Did I ever develop that tool?  No.  If I had, would I have checked in with it once a month?  Probably not.  It’s easy to know the theory of course but putting these things into practice can be a much harder thing.  I talk to people about self care all the time but when I reflect on my career over the years, sometimes I have been totally rubbish at it.  I get very absorbed in my work and don’t always raise my head enough to think of my own wellbeing.  There’s no time for that!  There’s too much to do!!  Not good.

Does that resonate with you?  How is your self care?  Are you telling colleagues, family and friends how they should take their foot off the gas and look after themselves more but then not applying that to yourself?  Are you, like me guilty as charged?! ?

Having high standards and being very driven are great things but don’t let that disable you.

A strength becomes a weakness if you overdo it.  Being very driven is a fantastic thing unless you find it almost impossible to disconnect from work and find your thoughts swirling around work issues when you’re away from the workplace.  Very driven people have high standards and create a huge expectation around what they’ll deliver.  My experience was: I start off working really hard because I want to create a good impression and that creates an expectation from others that I’ll deliver that level of work as normal, which I was OK with.  But then I saw others praised for delivering much less and performing inconsistently and that started to smart.  That then made me feel frustrated that I could rarely exceed anyone’s expectations and so I tried to give less to my role to make myself feel a bit better and then I was asked why I wasn’t performing as well!!  OMG!!  Does that resonate with you or was that just my experience of workplaces in the last ten years?

So, what’s the answer?  How do we balance what we give to our roles, doing a good job and enjoying what we do versus giving too much to it, feeling overwhelmed and out of control, and then feeling an impact on our wellbeing?  The answer is…

…I don’t have the answer unfortunately, sorry, because this stuff is very personal and what works for me might not work for anyone else.  There are lots of factors for us getting the right balance too, I think, to include our family situation, having family and friends who need our time and support, our financial situation, physical and mental health issues.  There are so many layers to who we are and how we can find the right balance of the energy we put into work and what we get out of it.  It might also depend on the type of work you do and how happy you feel (or not) to be there.  My suggestion is that you think about some of this stuff; to consider whether you’re surviving, thriving or feeling overwhelmed at work.  If you’re just surviving or feeling overwhelmed it might be worth thinking about why you’re in the job you’re in.  Was it something you fell into years ago for financial stability but it was never actually what you wanted to do?

Sometimes people never really know what they want to do as they progress through their careers.  The job they do is a ‘good enough’ match and that’s cool.  Often those people will balance their lack of love for their work with things they’re passionate about outside of work and that gives them a good work life balance.  But if you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s worth trying to stop the bus for a bit (that might just be taking some time at the weekend, I don’t mean that you have to take leave or go off sick), to re-evaluate what energy you want to give to your work and what rewards you want to take from it.  It can be very difficult, if you have high standards to allow yourself to take your foot off the gas and while some Line Managers can be amazing in the support they offer, sometimes they are under the same pressure as you are and so there’s very little time for a constructive conversation about work-life balance.  Occupational health services and workplace coaching can be great options for giving yourself some time and space to think with someone independent to help you facilitate those thoughts about what you want your working life to be like.

Years ago, in a period of depression, I read a book called ‘Depressive Illness – The Curse of the Strong’ (by Dr Tim Cantopher) which I found really useful.  Dr Tim identified how depression is more likely to affect those people who you see in the office who you think are always fine and can cope with anything.  If you see those people, please reframe your view of them slightly.  They are human just like you and just because they don’t wear their troubles on their sleeves it doesn’t mean they don’t have them.  And if you are that person, please try to find a way of taking your foot off the gas a bit and to not let your own high standards disable you as you listen to your inner critic telling you that you should be doing more.  That critical voice is linked to your self esteem and it could well be worth accessing a form of support to give yourself some time and space to think about where you’re at and how things can change, to allow you to thrive in your role and not bury yourself in work so much that you’re too tired to do anything else.

Balance is the key but the first step is definitely identifying where you’re at.  Even if you love your job it can be easy for the years to go by and then think ‘I’m not quite sure how I ended up here’ so seize control today, have a think about the balance of your life and how you want things to move forward.  Online life coaching tools can support your thinking, to help you to tease out the different aspects of life and think about how you would rate them.  And once you’ve seized the day and done that, sit the heck down and rest!  Balance in all things please fab people.  That’ll keep you thriving and being a good role model to others; family, friends and colleagues.  Then you’ll have the right to tell them to sit the heck down too ?

Take very good care please and have a great day.

Best wishes, Karen