Tag Archives: Priorities

Only Child revisits overwhelm

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

After enjoying the holiday weekend for Canada’s birthday I am now back into the daily grind. And another bout of overwhelm is trying to take over.

I don’t know if my late mother ever felt like she’d spiralled into overwhelm. However, she could have won the title for Worrywart Incarnate. She had a lot on her life plate – Dad dying of cancer and after his death, her own health problems plus going back to work and raising a teenager, and a house. Mom may have come close to overwhelm when she decided to sell the house. And at 19, I wasn’t much help to her here. As I write in my memoir:

I am lying on that living-room chesterfield. My ears are tuned to the top 40 bleating from the radio and the rest of my face and mind are buried in an Agatha Christie mystery.

“Sharon, help me clear out this stuff downstairs. What are we going to do with it all?” Mom shouts up from the basement.

“In a minute,” I reply, as I tell myself I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. At 19, I am Mom’s confidant and unwished-for helper.

“Sharon.”

“Be there in a minute.”

“Sharon.”

“All right.”

I shove a bookmark in the Agatha Christie, place it on the end table and stomp down the basement stairs, around the sharp curve midway. At least I won’t have to look at the orange stucco stairwell walls much longer. What was Dad thinking when he painted them?

I am ashamed of my thoughts and as if to make amends, I dig into the latest box of stored possessions. This carton, tall, narrow and heavy, contains my school exercise books, drawings, high school yearbooks and newspapers.

“Do you want all of this?” Mom asks. “You decide.”

 (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford)

Today I am thinking of a recent phone conversation I had with my friend who has the back problem. She’s been laid up with it for over a month as it goes through ups and downs. While she’s been literally on her back from the pain and sleeping off the pain meds, she’s had time to think. Like me (or worse) she was always trying to accomplish way too much. (And of course, she is alone, as well). She’s decided to focus on what is really important to her and let the rest slide or wait. She is drastically changing her life, including moving closer to her brother and sister.

She’s right – not just about the family part, but about figuring out what is important in your life and ditching or postponing the rest. I’m taking that to the micro. Each day I am now deciding in my work, (including answering those sometimes pesky emails), in my personal life, just what is absolutely necessary for me to do today. With client work, deadlines help here. If a client needs an invoice so I can be paid, that is necessary for today. I look at all the emails and decide which ones are necessary to deal with today – family, friends and work. I already don’t work weekends except for the occasional workshop so rarely answer business email on weekends. I will also now stop apologizing for being so slow to reply to an email even if I don’t get to it until four or five (or more) days afterwards. I will do as my hairdresser does – just reply to it when I get to it. I have also removed myself from some email subscriptions that were merely getting filed for possible future story ideas. I’m staying on my LinkedIn groups, writing organization groups forums and listserves and blogs I’m connected to, including writing this one. Connecting with other writers is important – we can all help each other. The intent now is to actually connect with them more often. I know – where is the time? It might not be every day, but I’ll do it.

I’ll also shove more stuff in “pending.” To take the reverse of an old axiom, I will “put off until tomorrow what doesn’t need doing today.”

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it – for today, anyway.

Any comments? Ideas on dealing with overwhelm?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Burnout, email overload, Life demands, Mother, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon Crawford, Time management

Only Child tumbles into overwhelm

Only Child contemplates getting out of overwhelm

Lately I’ve become a space cadet. I forget where I put things; why I went downstairs and people’s mugs sometimes create a blank stare on my part (I’m usually good with faces and sometimes can even summon a name). At the same time a virus invaded my body. My turning point  came last evening when I boarded the bus and tried using last month’s transit pass without realizing it. The driver was kind but I decided to return home and get the May pass because I would still have to return home by public transit.

While the virus may have added to my “space flights,” it is not the cause – it is more likely a result according to an article on preventing burnout at http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm. The “cause” is too many things in every area of my life coming at me at once. Many fly in out of the blue (or black). Everyone demands my action NOW. Like that poor headless chicken I try to oblige. Some of these very people with the big demands tell me to “relax.” That’s an insult because you can’t turn on relaxation like the TV. So I now tell these people, “only person here. Have to do/organize everything myself.” I really think  being alone in the world is a factor. Not the only one, though. According to this article a person’s attitude can have something to do with it. I agree. The article also mentions a symptom of burnout as not having enough time for yourself. I agree and add not having enough time to make choices or sometimes not having any choice (or seeing my situation that way).

After reading this article I realize I haven’t quite hit burnout. But “overwhelm” and “stressed-out,” yes. So, after exiting that bus, I resolved to live my life according to my priorities. It is not essential that I answer every e-mail pronto; heck, it’s not essential to check e-mail like I was a gnat-in-action. The delete button is getting a vigorous workout. Of course, I try to be reasonable with my priorities. Obviously if a magazine editor wants my story in by a certain date, his or her deadline becomes my deadline and gets prioritized. I don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today; instead, I put off to tomorrow (or after tomorrow) what doesn’t NEED to be done today. Eliminating too much “food” on my life plate at once is starting to make my body and soul feel good. I’m becoming more assertive. Just have to watch I do it pleasantly not with anger – unless the person keeps demanding and becomes a nuisance, which happened last week. Somebody kept phoning over a two-hour period with a different question each call… all at the last minute before a meeting we would both attend. I also had my lawyer arriving for me to sign some papers just before this meeting. Bad timing? Maybe. However, he was saving me another trip up to his office in the northern parts of Toronto and he was only in my area that evening.

Then there’s the guy doing the excavation/sealing to fix the leak in the basement. That part  is done, including filling in the hole he dug, but the area must sit for a month to settle before he does the grading. I can live with that. However, I can’t live with his flakiness about when he will  bring me that patio table to replace the one he broke (a leg) moving for the work. He found another patio table that his neighbour wants to get rid of for free. I’m grateful for that. He keeps saying he’ll do it when he has a helper for his other contract work.  I tell him to call first to make sure I’m in and not meeting with a client. Meantime, the old patio table sits propped up with a large plant pot (turned upside down) and a brick. I’m holding back on some of his fee until all work is done and told him so last evening – after days of worrying over doing so – used the twofold reason I’ve never paid him before he finished other jobs and isn’t that standard practice?  It is in my editing business.

Felt better after that. Yoga classes resume tonight, so I will do another of my new resolutions – take care of my body.

Anyone else want to comment on how they deal with stress? Here’s the link to that article again. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm.

And if you are in overwhelm, remember the 3 D’s: delete, delegate (if you can), and delay.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Assertiveness, Balance, Burnout, Decisions, Life demands, Life learning, Multi-tasking, Only child, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Public Transportation, Stress, Time management