Wow, has it been a tough couple of years!
If you are feeling overwhelmed, drained, verging or already sitting in a place of burn-out, you are not alone. I know I have been lately. I know for myself it’s a combination of a few things: Getting back into a more consistent work schedule after having my daughter, still living in a pandemic, decision fatigue because I have children in a pandemic (do I take them places? is it ok for us to go to fully-vaccinated people’s homes? should I put them in activities? are they getting enough social interaction in this crazy time? etc. the list goes on), Christmas feels both exciting and overwhelming (anyone else feel this way about holidays?), and I’m just not taking care of myself in the way I would like to be (limited social interaction, not enough sleep or exercise etc.). That is my truth. I have not been feeling 100% myself all the time.
Three things that I find fall by the wayside when I’m feeling drained are follow-through, consistency, and accountability; however, they are ironically three of the potential antidotes for that feeling. When we feel overwhelmed it is often a result of not getting enough time to ourselves, not doing enough things that we enjoy, or being disconnected from our “why.” Making time for ourselves and doing things we enjoy doing has been challenging in the past two years. We are “on” more than we have ever had to be. We are available to those we work with more than ever before. We are available to our children more than ever before. We are available to our partners more than ever before. We are available to some because we are physically present in more spaces with people we wouldn’t normally spend that much time with. We are available to others online more because we are connected on email, Slack, Microsoft teams etc all the time thanks to our phones. Don’t get me wrong, I am a bit fan of working from home/anywhere, but it requires follow-through, consistency, and accountability to our boundaries. When we let others walk through our boundaries it is overwhelming because it feels as if we don’t have control.
Humans like control. One of the ways we can take back some control is by setting boundaries and following through, staying consistent, and holding ourselves and others accountable.
So how can we utilize Follow-through, Consistency, and Accountability to decrease feelings of overwhelm?
- Follow-through: I’m defining follow-through as doing what you say you are going to do. A few years ago, I struggled with following through consistently because I had overcommitted myself on so many levels. The guilt was out of control. I would say “yes” to doing something or completing something, and then I would instantly feel regret. As the commitment or the deadline grew closer, I would start plotting how to get out of it, which is not healthy because that also made me feel guilty. So one thing I started doing was rather than saying “yes,” I say: “let me look into whether I can make that happen”. It gives me time to think about it, and I am less likely to say yes to something I don’t want to do. I’m able to formulate how I can say no without any guilt (people-pleaser over here!), I can follow through more consistently. The other thing that helps with follow-through is setting realistic timelines. I’m a big fan of the under promise and overdeliver method of setting timelines for deliverables. This method can help with follow-through because you give yourself more of a runway.
- Consistency: I have found in the last two years consistency has been more challenging because even though life feels very much the same from day to day it also feels like we are waiting to get back to “normal.” So the push to be consistent is met with the hesitancy of if I’m consistent now, everything could change, and then I have to find a new way to be consistent. One way to find some consistency in what feels like an inconsistent world is to pick one or two habits that you know you want to be consistent with, for example, having an earlier bedtime or spending less time on your phone. Then think of one thing you believe you can CONSISTENTLY and easily do to work toward that. For the bedtime habit, it might be to set an alarm for 20 mins before your ideal time and commit to starting your bedtime routine (brushing your teeth etc.) as soon as the alarm goes off. For spending less time on your phone, it might be trying to put it in another room during times you would usually get lost in it. The simpler, the better. Simple makes it easier to be consistent, easier to do it daily or weekly, depending on what you are trying to change. Simple also makes it less overwhelming.
- Accountability: I often need a different kind of accountability for different habit shifts or goals. If I’m working on a small shift, like going to bed earlier, I’ll sometimes use a simple method of tracking the shift in a journal, on a day-timer, or in my calendar. I’m personally a big fan of checkmarks, lists, and crossing things off. I’m one of those people who will write a to-do list including a couple of things that I’ve already done just so I can cross something off right away! If I’m trying to shift something bigger or I’m working toward a bigger goal I find that reaching out to a coach to support me can help tremendously. My partner is great for some accountability things, but he has his own shifts to focus on for accountability. I feel more inclined to follow through and stay consistent when I have a coach. They also tend to ask the questions I need to help myself make a plan I can succeed in completing. It also helps decrease feelings of overwhelm when you have a flexible plan.
Some people are great at being internally motivated to be accountable, but sometimes a little bit of outside support goes a long way!
As we move into the holiday season, give yourself some grace with your progress on whatever it is you are working on improving or changing or maintaining because we all know that this time of year it is harder to do these things. Getting down on yourself about lack of follow-through, inconsistency, and lack of accountability won’t motivate you to be better, but it could demotivate you. Every day is a new day to try again!