Have you ever had a week where it seems like you are faced with a challenge everywhere you turn? Have you ever had a few days at work where it seems like no matter what the topic, you’re on a different page than everyone else? How about a time where you were just hoping that one thing could go right, because you just didn’t have the bandwidth (or energy) to take on one more thing if it went wrong? That is how my work week started. My days always involve jumping from project to project, that’s what keeps things interesting, but this week it seemed as though each project had an urgent matter that needed resolving. In years past I would have allowed the individual events to build up, not realizing the added stress I was feeling or the impact it was having on me. This time was different, I recognized I was stressed out. I tried to do things throughout the day to diffuse the stress by allowing myself mental breaks, like reading a personal email or getting out of the building for a shortened lunch. It appeared to be working. I still had a ton to do and felt the weight of those deliverables, but I thought I was managing the stress of it fairly well. Little did I realize, under the surface, the waves were growing. Late in the afternoon on Wednesday I was multi-tasking, as usual, when I received an update I had been waiting three weeks to receive. The update was not the answer I had been hoping for and I would have to wait longer to receive a final resolution. Though disappointing, it should have been a situation that was easy to handle however given everything else that had gone on over the last three days it was the final straw. My first instinct was to get away from the situation as quickly as possible, to call it a day and start again tomorrow. But I knew I couldn’t do that, so I sat down at my desk and took a couple deep breaths. It was not enough. The wave of stress and emotion that had been building for days swept me up and came crashing down. The tears came and I was unable to hold them back any longer. In the moment I was feeling defeated, hopeless and a million other feelings, including the desire to just disappear. After a few minutes, I pulled myself back together, finished what needed to be finished and headed for home.
What happened next is what makes this story different than the times before. Driving home I was sullen, tired and still stressed out. It would have been easy to go through the drive through for dinner and let the kids watch TV while I opened a bottle of wine and replayed the event over and over in my head. But I didn’t do that, I couldn’t do that. I refused to let the stress of the day ruin my night. I chose to focus on everything else. When I picked up the kids I was happy to see them and asked them about their day. Before starting dinner, I hung up some pictures that I had received in the mail the day before. Looking at the pictures and having them out in the open for us to see was an instant mood lifter. As the night went on I continued to focus on those around me. I reached out to a couple of friends, spent some time journaling and started a new book I had been wanting to read. I didn’t let the events of the day derail me like they had done so many times before. I chose differently.
I am passionate about work life balance – I work very hard trying to maintain my definition of balance - but obviously, it’s not always enough. We all have days where balance sits firmly on one side. It reminds me of a teeter totter with the heavier person stuck on the ground while the lighter person has their feet dangling in the air. What I realized this week is that it is always easier to stay stuck on the ground. It feels impossible to move. You feel helpless and hopeless. But like the teeter totter, the only way to shift is to slowly start adding things to the other side. Each little thing helps – time with your kids, looking at pictures, reaching out to friends, reading a book. One at a time you start stacking small things on the other side and little by little you start to lift up. You may not even realize that you’re no longer stuck on the ground. Too often we feel like balance requires big measures and for this reason we believe it is too hard to achieve. But don’t overlook the impact of stacking up lots of small actions.
Journal on this: How’s your balance? What small actions can you take to shift more in your desired direction?
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.