I know the work-life juggle can be tough – it’s a busy load to carry, no doubt, when you’re a working woman with a family, household and job.
It is doable though and you can actually manage it well, with energy and enjoyment, if you take reasonable care of yourself and practice some boundary-setting around your time.
It’s a complete disaster though, when you make the mistakes I did.
Even when you know better, you get it wrong, as was the case for me when it came to managing the work-life juggle over the past 18 months.
Just like the plumber always has leaking taps, and the builder an unfinished house, I managed to mismanage the very areas of life I know how to (more or less) manage pretty well in order to function well.
Eventually, I collapsed into bed exhausted, unable to get up for three days, and I’m still putting the pieces back together six months on.
At the end of 2015 I took on an high intensity job, alongside keeping my business profile ticking over, on top of committing to making the most of my time with my kids, and maintaining healthy eating standards at home.
This is a pretty standard workload for most working mums I think- just the jobs and families differ, perhaps some of the finer details or priorities, but essentially we have a schedule jam-packed with pillars of life we deem necessary and non-negotiable.
For the first six months of the juggle that came with taking on the new job, it went pretty well. I maintained healthy boundaries around my time to a certain point and maintained my commitment to good food.
By the end of 12 months though, I was completely out of energy and patience, was feeling highly strung and my over-thinking mind was running away with itself and manifested into anxiety.
My immune system suffered and I knew my adrenal system was stretched to it’s limit. I knew my body was struggling and as a result, so was my mind.
I had screwed up the work-life juggle.
The three work-life juggle mistakes I made
Going from home, to school, to work and then back again meant I was always rushing.
Leaving work at the very last minute – in order to squeeze the last available second out of the clock – meant I felt a sense of urgency to race to school to make pickup on time.
More than once I was late and felt that sick panic that I’d let the kids down and they were stranded on the side of the road. (I didn’t and they weren’t but that’s how you feel, right?)
Racing from home to school and then on to the office to make sure I made it at a respectable time meant I felt like I’d already run a marathon before I even walked though the office doors.
I felt a sense of urgency all day long, trying to rush through a to do list that no matter how much I ticked off from the top, more just flooded in at the bottom, creating for me a sense of drowning in it.
Then it was racing home from after school sport to arrive home in the dark and have to rush to pull dinner together and make sure the kids were fed and in bed at a reasonable hour.
I had a constant sense of urgency, feeling like I was always behind and just keeping my head above water.
When this happens, your body is in constant stress mode, producing a steady stream of cortisol and forcing your adrenals to work overtime, giving you that wired but tired feeling. This is when you start to put on weight, lose sleep and feel exhausted when you haven’t done any physical activity. As it did to me.
Your body is just not meant to feel rushed all the time. This is an artificial trigger for the stress-response and one of the main reasons women today suffer a range of symptoms including hormonal imbalances.
Now I knew all of this, and how to fix it, but I did jack-shit about because I was too stressed just keeping the balls in the air.
I said yes waaaaay more than I should have. Possibly because I had decided last year to say yes to things more often, having read Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes.
Saying yes to doing more with and for the kids; saying yes to going the extra mile.
The problem though was it didn’t leave any room for white space or me space.
My schedule was stuffed … and so then, was I.
There was no time for a walk, for yoga, for anything. Actually this is not completely true.
I could have made time earlier in the morning for these things, but I kept telling myself I didn’t have time and that my time was better used to get to work early so that I could get more done.
Excuses are incredibly easy to make when you’re caught up in scarcity mode, and achievement, and responsibility, and people pleasing, and, and, and …
Playing the Martyr Mum or Supermum will sabotage your health and wellbeing and keep you in the mode of people pleasing, overloaded with busyness without the balance you need to replenish.
I let my time boundaries slip, and would work in the car, work on my days off, help others out even if meant doing things at night when I should have been off the computer and in bed.
If you don’t practice saying no – or perhaps saying yes more thoughtfully – your body ends up saying “Hell, no!” for you.
While I managed to pack a healthy lunch to take to work on the office days, the other days I took to skipping lunch altogether and soon developed a 2.30pm corn chip habit on the school pick-up run.
Organic or otherwise, there’s no such thing as a healthy chip – this I knew and yet I relied on them every afternoon instead of maintaining habits I knew that were not only good for me and would give me the energy I needed, but that actually tasted better!
Just a friendly reminder: your body cannot function properly without the proper fuel it needs! If you don’t feed your car the right fuel, or any fuel, it conks out. So too does your body, funnily enough.
Skipping meals and eating empty carbs will give you wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels, and the inevitable crashes that come with that. You’ll also put on weight.
If your body doesn’t receive the nutrition it needs (which doesn’t come in a packet of corn chips and cup of coffee by the way), it stores fat for energy later on.
If your body receives too much energy in the form of glucose (which happens when you eat highly processed carbs, like … corn chips) for what it needs (and it doesn’t need much to sit a desk all day long), it stores the excess fuel as fat to use later.
And finally, your body will still be hungry when you haven’t eaten properly, so it will ask for more food. Scoff, scoff.
We wouldn’t starve our kids of proper nutrition, but we think nothing of doing it to ourselves and then feel shit about ourselves because we’ve put on weight, have no energy and our moods become all pissy (because, hello! we’re tired, hungry and hormonal).
Which pretty much sums up where I landed in the end.
Doing the repair work
I’ve been working on reversing the damage, and prioritising my health. I’m tapping back in to what I know best, including:
- Going for a walk every morning after I’ve dropped the kids off. It’s in my calendar, and a friend has since joined me, so it’s non negotiable (most of the time).
- A super green smoothie every lunch time – packed with antioxidants and healthy fats to boost my nutrient intake and ward off that 2.30pm corn chip scoff.
- Winding back caffeine – I love coffee but my adrenals pay the price if I over-do it. I haven’t cut it out completely (just yet) but I’m being mindful of limiting it.
- Adrenal support – I spoke with a naturopath at the health food store to choose some supplements to support my adrenals and start to nurture them back to health before it ends up worse.
- Boundaries. I have been saying no to a lot. Not enough, but I’ve started.
- Podcast inspo – it’s too easy to be negative when you don’t feel great so I’ve been listening to some great podcast interviews to learn, feel inspired and motivated.
It’s a start.
Still on my list to tackle is:
- Starting yoga again. Not only do I need to stretch my body but yoga is incredibly powerful when it comes to calming your body and switching off the stress response. I find it the best way to lose weight – that pesky tummy fat that comes about from too much cortisol (stress).
- More exercise. Ramping those walks up or adding some HIIT to boost my mood and metabolism. I sit on my butt way too much and I can feel myself growing weaker as a result. I also need to get out of my head more.
- Less social media and screen time. I’m online so much for business but I too easily drift into mindless scrolling. It’s addictive and distracting and I do that too often instead of using that time to be productive, or as white space time.
- Meditation. It’s rated as the number one thing you can do for your health – and I know I need it to settle my mind and my stress. It’s the next thing to go into my schedule.
- Delving back to my best eating habits. After spending a couple of years really concentrating on this, I let a lot of it slip. Not all but a lot. so it’s step-by-step back to the best habits I can do.
- Working with a naturopath to fully understand my hormones and the next stage – hello perimenopause!
- Sleep – nail down the reasons behind the sleep disruption that continues to plague me (a lot of which will no doubt be resolved though by doing all of the above).