In our coalition work and our lives we are constantly making decisions about what to do next. This can be related to very small decisions about whether to email or call one of your colleagues or it may be a larger decision about whether you agree to work on a particular priority or commit to a new workgroup or team. Our decisions definitely build upon one another and sometimes, we can find ourselves overloaded with too many decisions to make at one time. This can be particularly difficult when we are managing requests from multiple people and projects. We want to maintain our strong relationships and we need to maintain our sanity! In those moments when the requests become too much and our brains cannot focus, the BEST thing we can do is to pause. Join me as I provide three ways you can pause to regain your rhythm.
Although we are all breathing to stay alive, we often forget about the benefits of pausing to take deep intentional breaths in order to regain our rhythm. A few weeks ago, I participated in a conference and we had a speaker discuss the benefits of focused breathing. When we practice a cycle of breathing in, holding and breathing out for twice as long as we breathe in (e.g. 4 sec, 4, sec, 8 sec), we engage our parasympathetic system which is what can help move our nervous system to a place of rest. When we do this, we are helping our bodies and minds reset and re-think our current situation. There are many different types of breathing techniques and I found an interesting resource here. For additional ideas related to addressing the concept of burnout and managing stress particularly focused on women, check out the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.
Take a break.
Stepping away from your desk and doing something different is a really powerful way to pause. When you choose to do something active during this break, you can find even more clarity! Even if you have limited time in the midst of a heavy meeting day, put on your tennis shoes and take a five minute walk (and breathe!).
A few weeks ago, I was working on some important projects the day before leaving for a trip. I don’t know about you, but I can become particularly stressed and overloaded when I am about to travel. I have SO many things on my list (both personal and professional) and my list gets really long. On this particular day, I was working on a project that was taking at least three times as long as I anticipated. At first, I tried to keep working on it thinking that if I just spent a little more time, I would finish it. But that didn’t happen and I became increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated. After realizing how unproductive I had become, I decided to pause. I knew that I needed to take a break before making any other decisions about my time and effort. I put on my tennis shoes, walked outside and took a 10 minute walk. During the walk, I spent some time breathing and when I returned home, I had clarity. I decided this project would wait until I returned and focused my attention on other important items. I left for my trip the next day without feeling completely overloaded – and I know it was because I took a break to reset!
Why do we always think we need to immediately respond with a “yes” when someone asks us to do something? How often do we find ourselves regretting that quick “yes” when we actually look at the rest of our schedule and commitments? If we are going to regain rhythm, we must activate our “pause power.” While this doesn’t mean you ignore the person asking you to do something, you can let this person know that you are not going to make an immediate decision. One response could be: Thank you for thinking of me. Let me check my schedule and existing commitments and get back to you. As you wait, spend time reflecting on the following questions to help you consider your answer:
- Does this request align with my current priorities?
- If yes, then this may be the right yes. If no, then say no quickly!
- What am I already saying “yes” to in my life?
- Even if you feel like you have time right now, remember what you have already committed to do (write it down if needed!). When you make new decisions without considering your previous ones, you can find yourself overwhelmed later when all of the “yes’s” show up on your future calendar!
- Why do I feel compelled to say “yes” to this request or person making the request?
- Are you doing this because you feel like you owe them something?
- Is it because you are trying to please someone?
- Are you trying to prove your worth or value?
Once you have paused and reflected on these questions, you are in a better position to provide your “yes” or “no” with confidence rather than out of obligation. Pausing gives you the power to think and to re-think more clearly about the right decision(s) that will help you escape the overwhelm and regain your rhythm.
Check out my free Escape the Overwhelm Checklist for ideas on how you can practice these concepts to regain your rhythm!