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Every time I ask mothers what they’re struggling with the most, overwhelm and balance are two of the most common answers.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I love supporting mums in these areas.
There are a number of strategies you can use to help you overcome overwhelm and find a sense of balance in your life.
It’s important to say, that I don’t believe balance is this utopian state we finally arrive at when we figure things out. Some people believe that balance doesn’t exist at all, but I prefer to redefine it to be more realistic. Balance is an ongoing process of monitoring and adjusting to stay focused on the things that matter most to us, and at the same time, look after our wellbeing (so that we can continue to focus on the things that matter most to us).
I want to share a strategy that can with overwhelm and finding balance, from best selling author and authority on self care, Cheryl Richardson.
The intention of these lists is to be very discriminating about how you use your time, energy and attention. Most people feel like time is very limited, but our energy and attention are even more so.
The lists help you identify your priorities and the things you will no longer do, to make better decisions, get the most important things done, and look after yourself at the same time.
You might be thinking that getting things done is way more appealing and important than looking after yourself. The reality is, that if we don’t look after ourselves, in the longer term, we won’t be able to get things done! You really can’t have one without the other, if you’re thinking beyond the present.
Let’s dive into each list, to see how they work.
The Absolute Yes list
Are you doing too much?
My mum is always telling me I’m doing too much, but I think the definition of “too much” is very personal. What is too much to one person may be not enough for another.
However, it’s a worthwhile question to reflect on, rather than just dismiss with a quick, “of course not”. Once you’ve been operating at a particular “speed” or “level” for a while, you can become quite accustomed to it (even when it’s stressful) and begin to think it’s normal. To make things even more challenging, with the glorification of busyness, many people are doing too much, so when you look around, the standard of how much you “should” be doing seems to be quite high.
“Shoulds” are not a helpful measure for our lives.
What is helpful is coming back to what we feel, deep down, is true for us.
Perhaps we’re saying yes to everything because we like saying yes, making people happy or gaining their approval. Maybe we just don’t know how to say no.
But we can’t do everything.
So, what will you say yes to?
Your Absolute Yes list includes up to 7 things in your life, that you will always say yes to because they nourish you and are important to you.
When you’re asked to do something, that’s not related to anything on the list, this is a reminder to think very carefully about whether you are going to say yes to it. Because when you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. And you might be saying no to something on your Absolute Yes list!
Create your Absolute Yes list
What are your top priorities at the moment and over the next few months?
What do you want more of in your life?
Go ahead and write down whatever comes to mind.
If you need a little help to get started, consider these areas, and for the ones that resonate the most, write down specifically what’s most important to you.
- Space (physical, mental, time)
- Your relationship with your partner
- Service to others
Can you narrow it down to 5-7 priorities?
Here are some examples:
- Deepening my connection with my husband
- Being present with my children for a period of time every day
- Inviting more creativity into my life
- Moving my body more
- Creating more “space” in my day.
Write them down, and put them somewhere you will see them all the time.
When you’re asked to do something, go back to your list. If it’s not aligned to anything on there, pause and think carefully about whether you can, or want to take it on.
How does your body feel when you think about it? Do you feel tension, aching or contraction? There are many opportunities to say no.
The Absolute No list
Ok, now for the opposite list.
Cheryl actually added the Absolute No list, years after she started teaching the Yes list, because she realised that it was just as valuable.
We all have things that we’re doing, that we could stop, with very little or no negative impact.
We all have things we’re doing that drain us, make us feel low, stressed, resentful, exhausted and depleted.
Perhaps they are things that we have been doing for a long time, or have a habit of doing, that are no longer serving us.
Those are the things that you can put on your Absolute No list. This is a list of things that you will stop (or maybe already have stopped) doing to protect your time, energy and attention, and honour your values and needs.
Create your Absolute No list
What things are you tolerating in your life?
What’s frustrating you?
What are you doing that no longer serves you?
You may be able to think of the answers straight away. But if not, spend this week observing your life and daily activities. Note down the things that you no longer want to do or would like to give up at some point in the future.
Pay attention to what your body is telling you through the week. Do you feel any tension or aching? Is your breathing more shallow than usual? Are you feeling unsettled or on edge? Any of these could be indicating something isn’t right for you anymore.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- Unhealthy relationships
- Unhappiness in your career
- Having the TV on during dinner
- People who are always asking too much of you
- Unhealthy food in your house
- Too much social media
- Not being present
- Doing nothing for yourself
- Family rituals that are no longer necessary
- Habits that no longer serve you
- Skipping meals
- Staying up too late
- Repeated arguments
- Criticism and judgements from others
This list doesn’t need to be restricted to 5-7 items. Anything that isn’t supporting you to live your best life, doesn’t need to be in your life. The list should protect you and keep you strong. So, write as many as you can think of!
Your Absolute No list may include things like:
- Using credit to purchase things, when I don’t have the funds available
- Arguing with people, when they don’t need to agree with me
- Keeping things in my house that I don’t love or use
- Participating in gossip
- Staying silent when I need help
- Letting the opinions of others dictate what I wear or how I present myself
- Checking my emails throughout the day.
- Cooking every night of the week.
Should I just stop these things?
Once you have your absolute no list, what do you do with it?
Firstly, put it somewhere visible and review it daily, especially at first.
If it’s feasible to immediately stop or work towards stopping those things, do that! (For some things, it may take time to get to the point of stopping).
- Find someone else to do them (just to help, in exchange for something or as a paid service)
- Create a new strategy around old habits. For example, if you aren’t going to cook every night, then you may need to cook in bulk less often.
Then, when something new comes up, make sure it’s not on your Absolute No list before you agree or allocate any of your attention to it.
Helping you set personal boundaries
Your Absolute Yes list and Absolute No list, are a form of personal boundary setting. They allow you to focus your time, energy and attention on the things that matter most to you and eliminate the things that are not aligned to you, or are not supporting your wellbeing.
Often, what we think is creating the overwhelm or lack of balance, is only a symptom and we need to look deeper for the real problem. Many of us think that having too much to do is the problem but it can often be traced back to not having clear priorities and strong boundaries, and not practicing enough self love and self respect to honour those.
The good news is, all that can change. And these lists are a great strategy to try, to get clearer on what’s most important to you.
So, lovely, set aside some time to follow the steps above and create your Absolute Yes and Absolute No lists and start using them to help simplify and focus how you use your time, attention and energy.
Overcoming overwhelm and finding balance, are two areas I love to help my one on one coaching clients with. If you’d like some personal support, guidance and loving accountability to create the calmer, happier life you’re longing for, then let’s have a chat about what’s possible! You can contact me here.