Have you ever been stressed out and found yourself wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?” You fall prey to the “Jesus Junior” syndrome where you mistakenly believe you have to be all things to all people.
If you’re like me, and countless other professional women, you already have an overpacked calendar and a to-do list that is never done. Yet somehow in your quest to be superwoman; to be that girl who does it all and make it look effortless, you find yourself smack dab in the midst of what I refer to as voluntary stress. Those things that are not mandatory and yet, you choose to take them on anyway.
Like when you say yes to your colleagues at work and accept an extra project even though you already have 10 other tight deadlines for the week. Or you agree to lead the annual PTA fundraising drive even though you have additional responsibilities in the office and an aging parent that needs more of your time.
The one thing I’ve learned is that not all stress is created equal. You see, the biggest problem with voluntary stress is the residue of resentment, anger and sometimes even the bitterness it can leave behind. What I want for you is to master the ability to be effective without being overwhelmed and make your journey meaningful.
I experienced this first hand recently when I volunteered for what eventually became the source of my stress. I agreed to do an event during the few hours of down time on my calendar. On the morning of the event, I was sleep deprived and rushing like a madwoman to be on time. I dropped my laptop on concrete, spilled hot tea in my lap and forgot to put on my Spanx with a clingy knit dress.
By 9:00 AM, I was sufficiently pissed off and stressed out because I was overwhelmed and unprepared. I started second guessing my ability to do well and wishing I had simply declined the invitation. In that moment, I could feel the early stages of resentment creeping in and realized I had a case of voluntary stress. I could have said no, but I didn’t.
I became determined to honor my commitment to the absolute best of my ability but safeguarded against it, to keep it from happening again.
Here Are 3 Ways To Avoid Being Overwhelmed:
1. Be flexible with your calendar but resolute about your priorities. Your calendar should always have some wiggle room where you can rearrange things to take advantage of a divine opportunity; including the chance to rest and refresh. This can only be done however, when you have clearly identified priorities. This prevents you from saying yes to fruitless things that are not serving your purpose because you have a strong sense of what matters and you allocate your time accordingly.
2. Master the balance between being helpful toward others and hurtful to yourself. Being helpful is part of our nature, yet, it’s imperative to create the awareness around this tendency in order to run your race effectively and accomplish your goals. Experience has taught me that the best way to master this is to give yourself at least 5 minutes before you respond to any request. “Yes” doesn’t need to be your knee jerk – go to reaction. It’s okay to pause, to ponder and consider the impact this non-essential request will have on your time and stress level.
3. Negotiate or counter-offer any non-essential requests for your time. One of the things I’ve observed in successful people is their willingness to negotiate on everything. In order to minimize your voluntary stress, be willing to step up and negotiate what works for you. As an ambitious woman, you don’t need to give people a blank check of your time and let them just spend it at will. Instead, make a counter offer that creates a win/win situation and put the ball back in their court.
When was the last time you said yes to something and later regretted it? Or like me, did you find yourself feeling resentful over a commitment you made?
Please share your comments and let’s learn and grow together.